EDITOR'S NOTE: This article previously incorrectly stated that vaccines were being distributed through Paris EMS. They are being given with Paris EMS present.
As the Covid-19 vaccine rolls out in Lamar County and across the Red River Valley, Northeast Texans are beginning to receive the potentially lifesaving inoculation, whether that be through Paris Regional Medical Center or the several pharmacies and clinics that received allocations.
While there has been some trepidation about the safety of the vaccine — some are wary about how quickly it was developed or are opposed to vaccines in general — others have gladly taken it. One of them was Jim Hamaker, a Paris resident who waited outside PRMC for several hours to receive a vaccination from supplies left over after the shot was rolled out to staff at the hospital. He said he jumped on the opportunity to get the shot.
“I (took the vaccine) because I don’t want to die,” Hamaker said bluntly. “I mean, it was now or never.”
Supplies in the Paris area are limited and were initially only offered to people in “Phase 1A and 1B” determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state government, which includes frontline health care workers and emergency responders, people over the age of 65 and people 16 years or older with preexisting medical conditions that put them at greater risk should they contract Covid-19. Hamaker said while he doesn’t fall into one of those categories, he was eager to get the vaccine when he heard some doses were available in an effort to push the country closer to herd immunity.
“The only trepidation that I had about taking the vaccine is I knew that there were people that were more deserving of it than I was, people that were teachers, people that were health care workers, people that were elderly care workers, people that were in essential businesses, such as food service — I felt that they should get the vaccine before I did,” Hamaker said. “But given that they weren’t there, I felt an obligation to vaccinate myself so that when I came in contact with all these people, I wouldn’t be a risk to them.”
Hamaker continued by saying, like most, he weighed the risks of potential side effects of the vaccine but felt it was worth it to get the shot. According to the CDC, side effects can include soreness at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, mild fever, chills or nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, the vaccine has been reported to cause difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and face, severe rashes and dizziness. The CDC lists the components of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on its website and cautions those who would like to get vaccinated to read through the ingredients to ensure they aren’t allergic to any of them. Thus far, the CDC has recorded 21 cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, out of nearly 2 million people who’ve received the vaccine.
“The benefits outweigh the risks means you take (the vaccine). That’s just risk management,” Hamaker said about his decision, noting that PRMC staff kept him at the vaccination site for about 15 minutes after he got his shot to monitor potential side effects. “The benefits of the vaccine or potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks and the risks are, what, soreness at the injection site, which I experienced, but that’s nothing compared to the benefits, which are the elimination of my vulnerability to Covid-19.”
In order to monitor any symptoms after the vaccination, Hamaker was given an informational sheet from the CDC with a code he could scan with his phone to enroll in an update program. Through the portal, he could submit daily health updates to the organization and receive guidance.
As a first responder, medical captain of the Deport Volunteer Fire Department Nanalee Nichols was among the first in Lamar County to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. Vaccines were available to members of local fire departments through Paris EMS. Like Hamaker, she said she happily took the vaccine in an effort to lower her risk of contracting the potentially deadly virus.
“I am 71 years old, which automatically puts me a little higher risk than younger people,” Nichols said. “And in all my research — and I am kind of a reader and a researcher — shows that they’ve had very few problems.”
Nichols added that she understands and respects why some people may not be interested in taking the vaccine, but said that she’s trying to open up a dialogue to urge others to get on board with getting the shot.
“I realize everybody has a right to feel how they feel about it and a lot of people just don’t trust it or think it’s too soon,” Nichols said.
As the coronavirus continues its deadly rampage across the U.S. and the world, with over 376,000 recorded U.S. deaths by Johns Hopkins University by press time, Nichols said she felt it was time to take action.
“To me, it’s the only way we’re gonna break the grip of this virus until we get people vaccinated for it, as well as distancing and masking and all that. It’s just gonna keep being bad and I think it’s almost a responsibility to do it,” she said.