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Published January 19, 2021

 

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

My dilemma with the vaccine: Should I take it?

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

It was decision time.

Should I get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Let me be clear: I am not an anti-vaxer. I trust the scientists who developed the vaccines and the federal regulators who approved them.

I would be the first person in line if it weren’t for an unusual medical history that complicates my decision.

On one hand, the science tells me I should rush to get the vaccine. I am 73 years old with an underlying condition. That makes me a high- risk for the coronavirus. Getting the vaccine seems a no-brainer.

On the other hand, there is emotion. I suffer from transverse myelitis,a rare spinal cord disorder that happened when I came down with the flu. For reasons that aren’t quite understood, my immune system responded in a way that my antibodies not only attacked the virus but also my spinal cord, causing damage.

I have been in a wheelchair for nine years.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines that help your body build antibodies if the virus strikes. As irrational as it may be, I get fearful when I hear the words flu, immune system and antibodies.

The pressure to make a decision arrived in an unplanned, spur-of-the moment manner.

It started right after the New Year when it was reported that the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine was slower than expected.

I began making calls to see if it was true in our area. Getting a vaccine myself wasn’t the goal.

First, I called Memorial Hermann. The hospital had notified me that I was eligible for the vaccine since I was a regular patient and met the criteria.

By the time I called, however, the hospital system was out of the vaccine.

Next, I called the Brazoria County Health Department. I was told the department had run out of its first 200 doses. What’s more, the department had no idea when it would get more.

I suggested there must be a better way to get more shots in our arms. The woman I was talking with agreed and suggested I try the Community Health Network.

I called the Adoue center in Alvin and was told the community health clinics in the county were only administering the vaccine to first responders.

It was beginning to seem as if the distribution of the vaccine was indeed slow.

I went on-line to Texas.gov and found that in the four weeks since the first vaccine was approved, 1,375,000 doses had been shipped to Texas and 475,627 people had been vaccinated with at least one dose. Another 6,418 had been given the required two vaccinations.

In Brazoria County, there are 80 providers and an estimated vaccine-eligible population (16 years of age or over) of 295,635. As of the first week of January, 5,444 county residents had received at least one dose, and 122 were fully vaccinated.

Officials expect the vaccination rate to pick up, if it hasn’t already.

At the time of this writing, the vaccine is only available to front-line healthcare workers, residents of a long-term care facility, those 65 years of age or older and those with certain chronic conditions.

Before starting my column on the distribution of the vaccine, I decided to check back with the Brazoria County Health Department one more time. I had a couple more vaccine distribution questions.

I got lucky.

The department that earlier in the day had no idea when it would get its next shipment of the vaccine, now had 200 just-arrived doses.

Hmmm. The virus was surging. Variants are appearing. The vaccine was in short supply. Maybe I had just stumbled into a chance to get the vaccine. I decided it was now or never.

I called (979) 864-1484 to get an appointment. It was busy, but on the 13th attempt I got through. I made an appointment for later in the week for my wife and me.

As soon as I hung up, I panicked. Had I given this enough thought?

I emailed my neurologist to advise him that I had signed up for the vaccine. I needed reassurance.

We had talked about it several times in recent months, but I wanted to give him one more chance to warn me off. He replied quickly.

“Dear Mr. Williamson,

"While I can’t guarantee that you would not have any neurologic complications, this is a very rare occurrence and therefore unlikely.”

Not exactly the full-throated reassurance I was hoping for. What to do? What would you do? I will let you know next week how it goes … if I go forward with it.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)