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Each One, Reach One

Vaccinated Individuals Urged to Share Their Positive Experiences With Those Who Are Hesitant

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Special to The Union
Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital VP/COO and Chief Nurse Executive Lori Katterhagen, RN, says she was overwhelmed with relief when she received her first COVID-19 vaccine in December. She encourages anyone on the fence about getting the vaccine to consider the benefits it will provide to them, their family and their community.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be re-evaluated and, in some cases, rolled back across the state, the number of vaccinated individuals also continues to climb. Here in Nevada County, more than 82,000 vaccination doses have been administered (as of May 21). It is also becoming easier to find and schedule vaccinations.

At the Sierra Family Health Center outside Nevada City, vaccination was initially only available thru their specified vaccine clinic appointments three times a week but now can be included as part of any routine office visit as well.

“Vaccination has been overall very successful here in rural Nevada County,” says Dr. Peter Van Houten, Chief Medical Officer at Sierra Family Health Center. “Our vaccination rate is high and I believe that is because we started educating people back in November and December about the vaccines, even before they were widely available.”



Dr. Peter Van Houten

Dr. Van Houten says much of that education has centered on the benefits vaccination can offer – both to individuals and to the community.

“It’s easy to recommend the vaccine to people who are 50 or older because they are at higher risk for hospitalization if they contract COVID-19,” he explains. “That’s true also for people with underlying conditions like asthma, severe obesity and diabetes, too, no matter what their age. But we also talk about the fact that regardless of your personal risk, getting vaccinated is something you can do for your community and for each other – it provides protection for others.”



At Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, VP/COO and Chief Nurse Executive Lori Katterhagen, RN, has been having similar conversations.

“It’s really about the personal connection – helping everyone remember their ‘why,’” Katterhagen explains. “Everyone has a ‘why’ they got vaccinated. I know personally, being vaccinated puts me a step closer to getting to see my parents who live in Canada. The borders are still closed unless we quarantine. We can’t wait to be able to see them in person.”

Both Katterhagen and Van Houten have encountered plenty of people with questions about the vaccine, including some who are quite skeptical.

“I really take the time to listen to what their concerns are and try to educate them,” Katterhagen says. “Most concerns are around the safety of the vaccine. Is it safe? Absolutely. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. The side effects can be an inconvenience for a day or two, but they are tolerable versus the risk of getting sick with COVID.”

Van Houten agrees that the vaccine has been shown to be incredibly safe. In fact, at Sierra Family they have administered over two thousand doses with no serious reactions or problems. Still, he says some patients are resistant to vaccination – and he respects that.

“I always tell patients, this is a personal issue and you have to make your own decision,” Van Houten explains. “We will honor that decision, but I tell them – just know that even if you decide not to do it now, we will always have vaccine for you, so if you change your mind – just let us know!”

At Sierra Family, for the first few months, vaccine was administered at outdoor vaccination clinics three days a week. Van Houten says the clinics often took on a celebratory feel with patients sitting together during the post-vaccination observation period.

“For a lot of people, that was the most social contact they’d had in a year,” he says. “The clinic was right outside my office window and I could hear them talking and laughing – people were just so happy and relieved to be vaccinated!”

In fact, Van Houten says that celebratory feeling has been surprisingly common.

“The most common side effect of these vaccines that I have heard uniformly from my patients is relief,” he says. “More than one patient did a little dance after they got their shot.”

Katterhagen says that’s a side effect she too experienced. “It was such a relief! When I got my first shot, the room was just filled with hope. It was right before Christmas and I thought that was the best Christmas present ever!”

For anyone undecided about whether to vaccinate, both Katterhagen and Van Houten urge you to consider the very compelling reasons in favor of it.

“Consider doing it for the good of our community and our families,” Katterhagen says. “Vaccination puts us all a step closer to being able to safely return to normal. Vaccination will help us protect at-risk populations, including babies and those whose immune systems are weak and can’t get resistance on their own.”

Van Houten agrees that vaccination is our best path out of the pandemic.

“Vaccination will allow us to visit grandparents and grandchildren, see nieces and nephews,” he says. “This is what is going to let us move forward.”

For those still on the fence, he encourages them to talk to someone who’s been vaccinated and ask what their experience has been. For those who are already vaccinated, he urges them to share their story with others.

“I ask every patient who has been vaccinated, please be an ambassador, people will listen to you,” Van Houten says. “Tell them your experience and what you will be able to do. Share the positive impact it is has had on your life since you got vaccinated. We have seen so many people who have done exactly that – they have simply shared their story at home and then showed up with their neighbor or their friend to help them get vaccinated. I say, ‘Each one, reach one.’ And the more we can do that with vaccines, the healthier our community will be and the more we will return to normal.”

Want to Get Vaccinated?

COVID-19 vaccine is

now readily available

for Californians aged 12 and older. The best and easiest way to schedule an appointment that is convenient for you is to visit the myturn.ca.gov website or call your doctor.

 


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