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By Connor Ashlock
The Calhoun County Health Department (CCHD) updated its Facebook page on Aug. 26, indicating that there have been 20 new COVID cases reported in the county since Aug. 18.
Public Health Administrator Sandy Teichmann and Jamie Bailey, a registered nurse employed at the CCHD, sat down with the Calhoun News-Herald to discuss concerns associated with the vaccine in the hope of encouraging individuals to get vaccinated.
“Basically, numbers are on the rise again,” Bailey said.
“In fact, we’ve had to move our staff around to accommodate the amount of testing happening at the health department,” Teichmann added.
According to Bailey and Teichmann, more people are showing up at the health department to get tested for COVID than ever before.
“Testing is up significantly, more so than it has been previously throughout the pandemic,” Teichmann said.
It was near the end of July when the CCHD noticed a minor uptick in COVID-related activity in the county, following the movement of the Delta variant into the region, given its increased transmissibility.
Now, as harvest season looms in the distance, and winter not too far behind it, Teichmann and her team at the CCHD are growing more concerned about how the variant will behave in the local population.
“I’m very concerned for the fall/winter season and in talking to other health departments, I think that’s pretty much the [general] feeling,” Teichmann said. “I was on a call with another administrator and there’s some very serious concern that we’re heading into something pretty bad. I’m hoping that’s not the case. We try not to panic and keep calm, but there’s a lot of fear out there.”
Teichmann further expressed hope that as vaccines receive full approval, more people will be trusting their effectiveness.
As a matter of conviction, both Teichmann and Bailey agreed that they would feel it a violation of conscience to steer people away from the vaccine rather than to it, but were also quick to state that they understand the concerns that folks have about the vaccine and are willing to have an open discussion regarding it.
Their stance on validity and effectiveness.
“I know a lot of people feel that it was rushed— that it happened [very] quickly without testing. I truly understand that line of thinking. I believe in doing the research, but they’re comparing it to vaccines created many, many years ago when we had different technology. We can move more quickly now,” Teichmann said.
Bailey added to Teichmann’s remarks.
“Technology has moved forward and we have to realize where we are and that it does move faster in every aspect of life. There are some side effects, and we have heard about those side effects, and of course with any vaccine there are always side effects. There will be an occasional adverse reaction, but they’re being very closely monitored,” Bailey said.
Bailey further mentioned that there haven’t been any such cases reported to the CCHD in which a vaccine recipient experienced adverse side effects other than what is considered normal.
Their remarks regarding concerned individuals maintaining pro-life stance.
Many have expressed concern over getting vaccinated because they do not wish to provide indirect support of medicines and vaccines that require the use of fetal stem cells in their production. Bailey and Teichmann recognized this stance and provided further clarity in this matter that can help individuals make more informed decisions.
“Johnson and Johnson is the questionable one,” Bailey said. “The other two vaccines don’t use that technology at all.”
Bailey and Teichmann went on to iterate this in another fashion, stating that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not possess the fetal stem cell component in their vaccines.
“We’re very sensitive to peoples’ beliefs and help them with suggestions to make the appropriate choice,” Teichmann said.
Their stance on the politicization of the vaccine.
“I know for some people, the issue has become political. I believe it’s a push for public safety and public health. I don’t feel that the push to get vaccinated is political, I think it’s merely to try and protect people,” Teichmann said. “We here at the health department believe that [getting vaccinated] is absolutely the best way to protect our country against COVID, but we also respect every citizen’s right to make their own choice.”
Teichmann also mentioned that the CCHD’s mission is to provide access to the best possible healthcare for the residents of Calhoun County and thus are available for support and information as residents determine what the best choice is for them.
Their stance on young people and pregnant women getting the vaccine.
Another issue that has come up on the CCHD radar is concern about the vaccine potentially causing harm to unborn children, or affecting an individual in such a way that it could mean adverse effects for children down the road, from both the future-father and future-mother perspective.
“We’ve heard those concerns. The research is showing it’s basically unfounded,” Bailey said. “It recently came out that they very much are urging pregnant women to get the vaccine.”
Their stance on individuals not getting the vaccine because they might be embarrassed to take it so late.
There are many who have yet to be vaccinated because they are waiting for further research to be revealed as to the side effects of the vaccine. But, with the Delta variant already becoming more prominent in the region, Teichmann, Bailey and others at the CCHD are becoming more nervous about those who are still waiting for the right moment to decide whether or not to get the jab.
“I actually admire these people,” Teichmann said. “I would not want someone to blindly take it. I applaud them for doing their research. It’s completely appropriate to do research, but I myself have done the research because of my position and I feel comfortable with it for myself and my family.”
When asked whether anyone should feel embarrassed or ashamed for not having received the vaccine up until this point in time, Bailey and Teichmann, together, responded with an immediate and resounding “no.”
“We respect and applaud people who have done their due diligence. We continue to offer the first dose. We’re getting new folks each week and we celebrate every one.”
Concerning booster shots, they are currently only available for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, but according to the information received by the CCHD, it’s looking like they’ll be available to the general public near the end of September or early October.
Teichmann and Bailey shared that the current suggestion for those among the general public who are waiting for a booster shot is to wait at least eight months after being fully vaccinated before pursuing one. Additionally, when you get your booster shot, you must get the same brand of vaccine that you received with your original vaccination.
And for those who are wondering how long it will be before the concern for the new variants subsides, Teichmann said they are hopeful that it will be in spring 2022, but that depends on several different factors including how the virus behaves among the population in the coming months.