Baran-Unland: I really wanted to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine.

But now I’m fully vaccinated. Here’s why.

This morning in a national publication I read about a story about “vaccine converts” – people who initially objected to the shot and later changed their minds.

The story concluded by saying grassroots campaigns might be more impactful at this point than public service ones.

Here is my grassroots two cents.

Although I’m in a hazy high risk area because of my age and underlying medical conditions, I didn’t hop into line the moment the vaccine became available to me, and I probably know more about COVID and COVID vaccines than the average person.

Read on for my objections and why I changed my mind.

As a pheochromocytoma survivor, can I safely have a shot of epinephrine if needed?

Absolutely, yes, my endocrinologist asssured me. I’ve had no symptoms since my left adrenal gland was removed in 2002, which she felt was really remarkable.

She recommended one of two vaccines (based on my medical history) and a hospital setting for receiving the vaccine.

That was April. I stalled until June.

As someone who has chronic hives and asthma, will I be more prone to a reaction? What happens if I do – especially since I can’t take some of the standard medications to treat any reactions?

I felt my odds of having a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine were lower than the odds of catching COVID.

As instructed, I had the vaccine at a hospital. I provided my medical history. No one felt intimidated putting a shot in my arm.

Long-term effects are unknown

Well, I’ve taken some medications more than 20 years and the research doesn’t go out that far either.

I learned that reactions to vaccines typically show up in the first few months – and millions of people have been safely vaccinated.

I also learned that researchers have studied and worked with mRNA (used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) for other vaccines and cancer treatments for decades.

Maybe I’ll just wait for more evidence.

The research world will never gather enough statistics on people with my strange combination of maladies. And it’s not just me.

I also have two adult children who developed petechiae from medications: one from an antiviral, another from an antibiotic. One these children also had a drug allergy to a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Another adult child had mild Stephen Johnson syndrome in response to an antibiotic. So we are careful when we begin new medications and treatments.

Here’s what changed some of our minds.

One particular vaccine worked well with five different family members with an age range of 14 to 85.

Side effects were mild for these five.

Other responsibilities in my life

Two family members have dementia. Other family members have other health concerns. I have elderly parents. These are all vulnerable people.

A senior who cares for an elderly mother told me during an interview why, despite his own concerns about long-term effects, he was vaccinated. He said, “I have to take care of today.”

So do I. So I did.

The Delta variant

The Delta variant is 60% more transmissible than the original strain that circulated at the beginning of the pandemic.

So social distancing and facemasks alone may be insufficient protection against this variant. I’m not ditching them, though.

My own tiny contribution to herd immunity

My tagline became, “One giant step for me, one small step for herd immunity.”

If we all wait for herd immunity, we’ll never see herd immunity.

Side effects?

Headache after the first shot only. No fever ever.

Body aches, fatigue and “spacey” for two days after each shot. I slept away a total of four afternoons.

The day I became fully vaccinated was my 60th birthday.

I am not sorry.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.