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ETHERIDGE: Halfway home to protection
Denise Etheridge
Denise Etheridge

This is an opinion.

I don’t understand why people are still hesitant to get what could be a lifesaving vaccine.

As soon as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp expanded eligibility to my age group, my husband and I jumped on the internet to schedule our shots. We received our first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Friday afternoon inside the former Sears store at Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth.

I found it to be a positive experience. I was impressed by how organized Newton, Rockdale and Gwinnett County Health Departments were in moving people through from start to finish in a timely manner. My daughter remarked that if the folks at Chick-fil-A and the mass vaccination centers got together we could solve a lot of problems. 

When we arrived, there were masked vaccination site workers with clipboards and iPads to ask the usual questions, like if you had any coronavirus symptoms or had been exposed to someone with COVID-19. They checked for appointment times and then directed us inside. Every step of the way, workers were polite and asked how we were doing. One young woman behind a clear partition checked our photo identification and entered our personal information including physical address, phone number and email. She then scheduled our second and final dose of the vaccine for mid-April.

The nurse who administered the vaccine again screened us by asking medical questions and we were directed to wait 15 minutes in a waiting area, socially distanced from others. There was also an area set aside for people to wait 30 minutes; those folks who may have experienced a reaction to previous vaccines and needed more time to be observed. Nurses stood at the front of the waiting area, to observe the recently vaccinated and ask how we were feeling.

When we were directed to the exit, we had to show someone at checkout our paperwork that had our second vaccine appointment listed. We were again asked if we were experiencing any discomfort before walking out to the parking lot. We were also given contact information and a website to refer to, should we need assistance or have additional questions.

I saw people of every age and race. Some Spanish-speaking folks needed language assistance and it was provided. Caretakers pushed elderly and infirm individuals in wheelchairs. Everyone seemed to receive compassionate care and from what I could see were treated with respect. One worker asked us if we were excited to get the vaccine. I smiled from behind my mask and nodded yes. I felt patriotic in a way. Getting the vaccine not only protects me, it protects people I love and strangers I come in contact with. Two days with a sore upper arm — like when your cousin punches you riding in the car, “Punch buggy, no punch back!” after sighting a Volkswagen beetle — is well worth it.

Once my husband and I receive the second dose and wait the suggested two weeks for full immunity to kick in, we can plan family visits, like driving down to Macon to see his 87-year-old Aunt Bertie for Mother’s Day. My sister Danielle said she and her husband might fly in from California to see us in May or June. My brother-in-law got the Johnson & Johnson one shot, and Dani is also halfway vaccinated. She got Pfizer. And we can spend July 4 with Frank’s sister and her family, like we did the year before the pandemic hit. 

Getting vaccinated has made me hopeful this crisis, too, will end.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. She lives in Newton County. Email: