Rettke: Now is the time to get your COVID-19 vaccine

Why you should take advantage of walk-in vaccine clinics with the DeKalb County Health Department

If you still haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine and are 16 or older, now is the time to get it.

A week ago, I received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center. The DeKalb County Health Department uses it as the primary local mass vaccination site, and I’ve found it to be run efficiently and with an abundance of pleasant people. An Illinois National Guardsmen administered my second dose, and we joked around. My wait time in line was less than 10 minutes, although I’d made an appointment.

Beyond a sore arm at the injection site (normal), some manageable fatigue and a couple of body aches here and there (also normal), I felt pretty fine the next day. I was lucky the day after was Saturday, so I took it easy, napped a little, did some light gardening. By evening I felt almost 100%, and by Sunday completely normal.

I know others have had different experiences with side effects following their second dose (or for some, their single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Some experience fevers, body aches and chills, heavy fatigue, some nausea (I had some of the latter, but I found it was manageable). Far and few between, it’s a day or two of powering through it and you’re out on the other side. And it’s all normal, your body’s way of telling you the biological process of creating antibodies against the coronavirus is working.

The alternative, as we know 406 days into the pandemic, isn’t much of a choice. The virus still is out there. It still is infecting people, putting them in the hospital, and costing their life. On Friday, we lost a DeKalb County woman in her 50s. The risk lives on, and COVID-19 variants are in Illinois.

This week, the DeKalb County Health Department began opening up its mass vaccination clinics to anyone, with walk-ins welcome and appointments, while not necessary, still an option for those who’d like to plan ahead. That means anyone, regardless of where you live, what you do for a living, as long as you’re 18 or older.

There are a few things to keep in mind: If you’re under 18, there is an option, however, it’s a limited one. The Pfizer vaccine currently is the only vaccine available to those 16 and 17, and no vaccine currently is approved for anyone younger than 16. Clinical trials for vaccine providers are being held as we speak. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for those 18 and older.

Read more about some upcoming walk-in vaccine clinic options for you at www.shawlocal.com/daily-chronicle, and take note of which clinic offers which vaccine to pick your preferred provider.

When you get to the clinic, you’ll be asked to fill out a simple form with your name, birthday, age and if you know of any times you’ve had an allergic reaction to any vaccine or if you have any significant medical history. If it’s your first dose, clinic staff will give you your COVID-19 vaccine card. If it’s your second, you’ll need to bring the card with you so they can check off that you’ve received the full vaccine.

The science behind the vaccine race, as Dr. Bob Manam, infectious disease specialist with Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital told me this week, is this: Vaccines are thus far proven to significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and also the severity of the virus, limiting hospitalizations, which are key to mitigating a viral surge.

And if the COVID-19 variants, believed to be more contagious, take hold before enough of our population is vaccinated by the time cold weather once again sets in, forcing all of us back indoors to gather against better judgment, we could be back to square one.

We’ve made it this far.

We’ve also learned more about the virus than we knew this time last year. We know it spreads in the air, via droplets from saliva. We know wearing a mask helps mitigate this spread, and limiting distances between others especially inside. We know outside offers a certain level of protection with the open air and ability to spread out physically.

And now we have a viable vaccine. As with quarantine logic, the idea here is to not only keep yourself safe, but to reduce the risk that you could harm others. This is not just about you. It is about us, a collective unit. The virus is still out there, it’s returned to our nursing homes this week, and on Friday it took another life from our community.

For the first time in what feels like forever, there is something you can do about it. It’s never been easier for you to secure a COVID-19 vaccine.

Supply has caught up to demand, and demand will likely soon taper off, yielding an excess of supply. Hence, the walk-in clinics.

Remember on Dec. 30 when local Kish nurses who’d toiled on the pandemic’s front lines exclaimed there was “light at the end of the tunnel” as our first shipment arrived?

Remember back in February when I spoke to some of our elderly population about how it was “very discouraging” to secure a vaccine appointment? Sycamore resident Barbara Moroz, 72, told me she spent three nights waiting until 12:01 a.m. to see if any spots opened up at the Hy-Vee pharmacy.

And remember when we wrote about how difficult it was for health departments to secure ample supply of vaccine while facing an onslaught of frustrated locals and an online sign-up wait list that numbered in the thousands?

Remember when you couldn’t get the vaccine because you weren’t considered an essential worker? Remember this time last year when all concept of a viable vaccine and an end to this nightmare felt like a fairytale?

So many in our community didn’t get this chance before it was too late. And now here we are. There are 117 people in our community who did not get this chance. You have a choice, and a chance to help us put this pandemic behind us.

Do it. It’s time.

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.