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Community members share why they got COVID-19 vaccine

Dadcast podcast co-host Nik Martin got vaccinated against COVID-19 to help protect his son. Photo courtesy Nik Martin
Protecting others a common theme

Nik Martin's newborn son spent three months in a neonatal intensive care unit fighting an E. coli infection.

Like some babies, he also wasn't born automatically knowing how to drink milk.

His May 2020 birth coincided with the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. With hospitals limiting visitors, Martin's wife was allowed regular visits with their baby, but he was only allowed weekly visits.

"Three months of seeing my baby once a week was really, really rough," said Martin.

His son fought off the E. coli infection and figured out how to eat.

"He is awesome now. If he gets a cold, he gets a really bad cold, so there's still some little issues but nothing like we had in the beginning. He's definitely a lot better," Martin said.

His son's battle as a newborn helped convince Martin to get a COVID-19 vaccination after it became available.

"My son already has underlying health issues, and if I can prevent bringing something bad into the house, I'm 100% for that," he said.

Before he got vaccinated, Martin had another experience that helped cement his decision.

Along with JP Pierce, Martin is the host of the Dadcast podcast, a show in which the duo offer encouragement to dads while interviewing celebrities, athletes, politicians and community members. Martin lives in Grants Pass, while Pierce lives in Medford.

Pierce was already vaccinated, and Martin had caught the COVID-19 virus — although Martin didn't realize he was sick right away. The podcast partners spent eight hours in a car together on a trip, and Pierce didn't catch the virus from Martin. Martin also didn't infect his in-laws, who were vaccinated as well.

Martin said when he got vaccinated himself, he felt relief knowing he was doing everything he could to protect his own family and Pierce's family, too.

"That made me feel a million times better," Martin said.

Like Martin, Pierce got vaccinated to protect those around him.

Over the span of six months, Pierce's life partner endured a hysterectomy, an aggressive form of breast cancer and a double mastectomy. The health problems made her susceptible to infection.

Pierce said he's not opposed to vaccines, but he was definitely skeptical of putting a new shot into his body.

"I was on the fence," he said.

But Pierce decided to put protecting his partner ahead of his worries about the vaccine. One morning he woke up, walked up to a Walgreen's and got vaccinated.

"I've never been more happy about a decision in my life," Pierce said.

Martin said he and Pierce have interviewed regular guys on Dadcast about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination and community efforts to fight the virus and save lives.

They've faced some backlash on social media for their decision to get vaccinated, but neither regrets making the choice.

"I just brush it off," Pierce said of the social media criticism.

Pierce said he doesn't agree with mandates that require workers to get vaccinated or face being fired. He would prefer that vaccination remain a personal choice.

As was the case with Pierce and Martin, an experience with a loved one prompted Sally Harrington, another community member, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

She said she's seen firsthand the lifelong effects a virus can have on a person.

"My father got polio as a baby. As a result, his right leg is paralyzed and he's had to use either crutches or a wheelchair his entire life," Harrington said.

Harrington said she wants to help create herd immunity.

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of the disease unlikely.

"I know a handful of people who, for one reason or another, can't get vaccines, so I do it to protect them," Harrington said. "I don't want my loved ones or even strangers to get sick, so if me getting a safe and effective vaccine can help, why wouldn't I get it?"

Registered nurse Kortney Pree said she hates to see how vaccination has become a political issue. She said research shows people are less likely to become severely ill or die if they get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"My heart breaks for people who are in the hospital saying, 'I made a mistake,' but it's too late for them. A local wife said goodbye to her husband and is asking people to get vaccinated in honor of him," she said.

Pree said she wants to be part of the solution and live in a community where people care about their neighbors.

"So many people are going to die unnecessarily because of their choice not to get vaccinated," she said. "I can't look around at the people I love and serve and say, 'I'm willing to risk your life because I'm scared of the vaccine.'"

After a year of teleworking and social isolation, Carol Clevenberg said she couldn't wait to get vaccinated. She wanted to protect herself, her elderly parents, her immune-compromised friends and family members, and children who aren't old enough to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccinations are currently approved only for children 12 and older as researchers study whether the vaccines are safe for younger kids.

Clevenberg said she's worked in public health before and knows that getting a high level of herd immunity is the only way to move beyond the pandemic and return to normal life. She said building immunity by getting vaccinated is safer than catching the virus and forcing your body to fight a virus it's never encountered before.

Teacher Shawna Taylor said she chose to get vaccinated to protect her family, including her children who are too young to get vaccinated.

She's also immune compromised, and doesn't want to risk shortening her life by catching the virus and becoming seriously ill.

Taylor said she also got vaccinated for her students.

"I'm a teacher and I teach some of our most vulnerable out there. They can't make the choice to get this shot, but I can get it for them so that I can make my classroom as safe of an environment for them to return to," she said. "I feel that getting the vaccine is our responsibility to help eliminate this virus and to also do our part to keep our most vulnerable safe."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.