On Tuesday, my friend Edna Fund sent me a text message asking how quickly I could get to the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.
There was a first-shot Moderna COVID-19 vaccine clinic going on, and so many spots were open that the decision had been made to open it up to everyone age 16 and over, two days before the official date when that tier was eligible.
I rearranged my afternoon and was pulling into the fairgrounds by 1 p.m.
The shot was quick and easy, with nurses and volunteers working from white fold-up tables arranged alongside two orange-cone lanes under the cover of the Dairy & Beef Pavilion.
Out in the parking lot, where you’re required to wait for 15 minutes in case of any kind of reaction, I saw a couple of my buddies. We hopped out of our cars and enjoyed catching up in the spring sunshine. We smiled, joked and talked about how great it feels to know that we are finally on the way out of this year-long pandemic.
I felt a little soreness in my arm at the shot location for a few days, but no other side effects. We’ll see how the second dose treats me.
I know that some folks have had some flu-like symptoms for a few days, especially after the second shot, but the common reaction I’ve heard is a reasonable one: “If the vaccine feels like this, I’m sure glad I didn’t get full-blown COVID.”
I take any reactions as a sign the body is doing its job to build up antibodies in response to the signals provided by the vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be remarkably safe and effective. Out of 66 million Americans who have completed a full course of vaccination (meaning two weeks after the second shot), only 5,800 have had a “breakthrough” case of the disease. That’s 0.008% of the fully vaccinated population, and well within expected numbers. No vaccine provides 100% protection, but the COVID shots are doing very well.
In fact, those national numbers suggest that if every one of the 80,000 people in Lewis County had been vaccinated and then were exposed to the virus, only 7 of us would have come down with any kind of COVID case, even a mild or asymptomatic one.
That compares with 3,502 of us who have actually gotten COVID-19 over the past year (and most of us have yet to be exposed to it, due to lockdowns, social distancing and widespread masking.)
What I like even better about the vaccination number is that out of the 66 million Americans to be fully vaccinated, less than a hundred — only 74 people — have caught COVID and died. That would mean almost assuredly that every Lewis County citizen, if fully vaccinated, would survive exposure to COVID. (For comparison, so far 56 Lewis County residents have died of the virus — and again, a vast swath of us haven’t even been exposed to it.)
In fact, assuming national numbers held true in Southwest Washington, you’d need to expose every single person in the fully vaccinated populations of Lewis, Thurston, Cowlitz and Clark counties to COVID to get to the point where a single person would die of COVID.
I like those numbers. In fact, the only number I like better is 2. That stands for my second shot, which I’ll get in mid-May, and the two weeks after that second shot when I’ll be fully protected against this virus. What a great summer this will be!
Two days after my vaccination, I had the chance to be one of those volunteers who help keep the clinic rolling. I worked as a “scribe,” helping process the flow of people coming through the vaccination area. It was a blast to work alongside an energetic Providence nurse giving the shots and a retired nurse from California who was filling our syringes with 10 doses from each vial.
They could have used a few more volunteers that day, and there will be plenty more opportunities to help. You can sign up to be part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Volunteer Task Force at lewiscountyuw.galaxydigital.com.
It’s a blessing to be able to help bring life-saving vaccine to the people of our community. I know you’ll be glad if you decide to join the effort.
‘Keep Rollin’ at Those Gates’
Last week I wrote about a semi-truck driver whose brakes failed on a hilly Tacoma road. In his final moments the driver managed to avoid other vehicles in the crowded intersection as he looked for a way to safely come to a stop.
Despite saving the lives of other drivers around him, he died after crashing into a warehouse at the bottom of the hill.
The driver has been identified as George Earl Dunn III of Puyallup. He was a husband and father of two daughters and two sons.
“His family was his world. George was the sole provider for his family and would often work extra hours to make ends meet,” according to a GoFundMe site set up to raise money for his survivors.
As of Friday, 141 donors had given $21,355.
One of them, Kristal Simpson, said this: “He saved my husband's life with his quick actions, and many others. He's a true hero in my eyes.”
The donation page is www.gofundme.com/f/george-dunn-gone-to-soon.
Brian Mittge’s column appears each Saturday in The Chronicle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.