Vaccine decision can be tricky

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I am 84 years old, fairly healthy except for atrial fibrillation and still unvaccinated, but before anyone starts yelling anti-vaxer, systemic racist or any other term the baying hounds like to throw around, please read this.

Over a month ago, I arranged for a shot at the VA. When I got there, they gave me an info sheet with possible side effects listed. When I saw chills, an old and completely unpleasant memory hit me.

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Ten years ago, I got my last flu shot. Within four hours, I was shivering uncontrollably like a malaria patient. I went to the emergency room. The shivering was bad, but my wildly erratic pulse was worse. I was immediately admitted to the ICU. It wasn’t until the next day that my pulse stabilized, but they kept me another night as a precaution.

When I mentioned this episode at the VA, the nurse in charge declined to recommend whether I should get the shot, referring me to my doctor. I drove by his office and he said the shot was probably OK. Three days later I had an appointment with my cardiologist. He also said the shot was probably OK and made me an appointment to get one.

When I arrived at the facility they asked me two questions: Have you been vaccinated recently? Have you ever had a bad reaction to a shot? I, matter of factly, related the flu shot episode. I was told to wait. The worker presumably went to check with the onsite doctor, but I never saw him. She returned and said, “We aren’t giving you a shot.”

Now I’m on the horns of a dilemma. I suspect that they were biased against giving me the shot. After all, they had nothing to gain and a lot to lose if something went wrong. However, I also don’t know how much my doctor really knows about the COVID vaccines.

Two days later, I got a break: My Yale Alumni Magazine arrived. The president’s message was denoted to detailing all the research Yale was doing on the virus. I called one of the departments listed and they explained that the flu vaccine is different from the COVID vaccine and that I could probably safely get the shot.

I plan to get the shot, but my situation is a prime example of why not all those who decline the shot are anti-vax nutjobs, threatening the public’s health. It’s time to scale back the rhetoric while we still have a country!


Roger Healey Jr.