“I chose to get the vaccine because I don’t want to get sick. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t want people to get sick from me, either.”
“I got vaccinated for my grandchildren.”
“It’s the right thing to do; I follow the science.”
“I wanted to do my part to keep the community safe.”
These are among the voices that people will hear in new videos just released by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, the public-health agency that serves Orange, Madison, Culpeper, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.
The videos aim to better inform area residents who may feel hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and to answer their questions, the district said in a statement.
Supported partly by the Warrenton-based PATH Foundation, the series features testimonials from patients, doctors and community leaders who have received the shot.
The videos address several concerns expressed by area residents , including those worried about potential side effects, the efficacy of the vaccines and whether or not they’re painful.
April Achter, the district’s health coordinator, emphasized that COVID-19 vaccines not only are safe, but are an essential part of people safely returning to pre-pandemic life.
“We know it has been a difficult year, and that many may feel uncertainty about the vaccination process,” Achter said. “By sharing science and real-life experiences from folks who have been vaccinated, these videos will help reassure our community that the shots are safe and effective.
“Vaccines are our best shot at normalcy, and keeping our families and communities safe,” she added.
Those sentiments are shared by those who participated in the new video series.
“As we all know, this past year has been very challenging and tough for many of us,” said Alex Smith, the worship leader and music director at Culpeper Baptist Church. “If you’ve lost someone, like I have, you know the importance of getting the COVID vaccine, so we can all get back to some sort of normalcy.”
The Rev. Habacuc Diaz Lopez, pastor of Culpeper’s Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha congregation spoke about how the vaccine will enable families, friends and communities to gather together once again. Father Kevin Walsh, pastor of Precious Blood Catholic Church, invoked the words of Pope Francis who said, “To get a vaccine is an act of charity toward our neighbors.” Dr. Tyronne Champion, senior pastor of True Deliverance Ministries in Bealeton, encouraged those who maybe lack trust in the government to get the shot to save the lives of “those you love and those who love you.”
As vaccination rates have increased in the district, vaccine doses have become more widely available, with many locations offering walk-in vaccine appointments.
“There are so many vaccines available at this time,” said Dr. Joshua Jakum of Piedmont Pediatrics. “For those who are hesitant, we hope we can answer the questions you have and bring you peace of mind about that decision.”
Dr. Jakum said the availability of the vaccines is one of the country’s greatest strengths at the moment.
“As a pediatrician, we are the backbone of vaccine-preventable illnesses,” he said. It’s what I do on a daily basis. I hope that you would consider getting vaccinated. It is the thing that’s going to bring us back to normal—normalcy in our lives, in our economy, to see your grandchildren, for kids to go back to school. It’s going to be thing that ensures we can fight this virus with success.”
Dr. Trice Gravatte, lead physician at UVA Primary Family Care of Culpeper noted that more than 570,000 Americans had died from the virus and that more than 45,000 currently are hospitalized.
In his comments, he weighed the risks of not getting the vaccine against contracting COVID-19.
“The vaccine is safe,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but the risk reaction (most likely an allergic reaction) is about one in a million and we can treat that.”
On the other hand, he noted, there is about a 30% chance of long-haul symptoms for those who contract the virus and a one-in-a hundred chance of dying from the virus.
“I hope people will choose to get the vaccine instead of the disease,” he said.
In Orange County, nearly 33,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered, with 44% of the county’s entire population fully vaccinated and nearly 54% of the county’s adult population vaccinated. In nearby Greene County, more than 50% of the entire population is vaccinated and nearly 62% of adults are. Madison County’s numbers are similar to Orange’s, with 46% of all county residents fully vaccinated and 55% of adults fully vaccinated. Across Virginia, 53% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Last month, health department officials announced vaccinations would be available at all Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District departments on a walk-in basis.
In Orange County, those interested in receiving a free COVID-19 vaccination can visit the Orange County Health Department at 450 North Madison Road, Wednesdays from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.
Vaccinations also are available at pharmacies and medical care providers.