DeKalb Board of Health staffers receive COVID-19 vaccine on New Year’s Eve
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA – On New Year’s Eve employees of the DeKalb County Board of Health saw a little light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel as they received the first round of the Moderna vaccine.
For one doctor who received the vaccine, Board of Health consultant Alawode Oladele, it was a poignant moment.
His son, who worked as a contact tracer for the state, was a strong advocate for the vaccine.
The two had lunch together yesterday and talked about the vaccine and his son’s friends were wary about taking the vaccine. However, Oladele’s son died in a car crash last night.
“For me there’s a special significance because we talked about it, I told him I was going to take it, and he wanted to come watch me take it here. Unfortunately, he’s not here today. He’s watching from heaven,” Oladele said.
DeKalb County received 2,500 vaccines and are prioritizing vaccinating the Board of Health staff who were interested and other health care workers.
“We thought it was no better way to end this year than by being able to provide vaccines to our staff. We’re very excited that we were able to do so,” said Dr. Sandra Valenciano, medical director for community health and prevention services.
Dr. S Elizabeth Ford, district health director, said it was an exciting day.
“We’re very excited to have received this supply,” she said. “We will then proceed with the CDC recommendations and the governor’s recommendations in terms of prioritizing other groups. This is a monumental day after a very difficult year of an unanticipated pandemic, and we are looking forward to having a vaccine so that we can move forward in immunizing our community so that we can get back to what is going to be our normal.”
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About 50 staff members were vaccinated at the T.O. Vinson Health Center and three other Board of Health locations will be receiving vaccines.
“We’re doing some at the COVID testing sites as well, the staff that work there, so that we can get them immunized as well. And of course, next week we’ll be continuing that throughout the county,” Ford said.
Those vaccinated at the T.O. Vinson Health Center included Valenciano, Oladele and Paul Spadafora, a budget officer.
Spadafora said he was a little nervous about the vaccine because it’s new, but suggested people read as much information about it as possible.
“That helped ease my fears especially. And especially working here in the Board of Health I know all of the doctors and nurses are very knowledgeable on the subject so that helped me feel more comfortable in getting the shot and of course I want to protect myself and my family and friends,” Spadafora said.
He added that it hurt less than the flu shot.
Valenciano also encouraged everyone to read the data and look at credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on the vaccines. She read the original papers and the data from the FDA on both vaccines which made her feel comfortable and confident in their safety and efficacy.
“So I would just encourage everybody to read credible information that is out there about the vaccines,” Valenciano said. “If anybody has any questions to talk about the vaccines with their primary care doctors and of course, they can ask us. We have a call center available with clinicians who can answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Oladele said the Board of Health has been looking forward to a vaccine for a long time. He said the vaccine is a game changer.
“So from the standpoint of the physical application of the vaccine, perfect. From the standpoint of the vaccine as a component of the process for eliminating COVID-19, this is phenomenal,” Oladele said.
He added that the only way to come back from the pandemic is to get enough people vaccinated.
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“There are a lot of folks who for lots of reasons, don’t want to get vaccinated. We have to convince them,” He said. “We have to change their mind because if I’m vaccinated and you are not then you’re still at risk. The more people who get vaccinated, the better it’s going to be for all of us.”
Currently, there is not a set date for when the vaccine will be available to the public. Most people will have to wait months before receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Decaturish previously reported.
“In terms of the general public, I hope that by mid-January we should have enough supply to open up the categories more but the next group after health care workers is first responders, [and] per the governor’s press conference last night is the 65 and older group,” Ford said.
While some people are wary of getting the new vaccine, the people vaccinated today hope that the public will educate themselves on the vaccine and feel reassured seeing Board of Health employees get the vaccine.
“So I’ve been in this position for 15 years and I take the trust of this community very seriously,” Ford said. “I have read over the safety profiles for both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. First of all, I’m impressed at the efficacy of both vaccines. It’s rare that you have anything that’s that effective.”
She also signed up her mother to get the Moderna vaccine.
“That’s a serious thing for me and so I hope that people trust the science, I hope that the more people that get the vaccine, more folks become comfortable with it,” she said. “We’ve been watching social media because clinical staff that have received the vaccine are reporting whatever side effects they may have and everything so far has been minimal and everyone has said they would go back and get the second dose.”
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