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Why Some People Are Changing Their Minds About Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine

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Jolene Almendarez
Evelyn Cox got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Hamilton County pop-up clinic in August.

Hamilton County's pop-up vaccination clinics are reaching people still hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, whose reasons vary from concerns about vulnerable family to issues of accessibility.

It's been more than a decade since Evelyn Cox lost her husband to colon cancer. She faced her own bout of cancer five years ago and is now in remission. But when her only daughter got COVID-19, she was scared.

"I was 40 when I had my first child. I was so blessed," she said. "The doctor said I couldn't have any children. But were they wrong, weren't they? And as it turns out, she has five. So I have five grandchildren."

One of her 11-year-old grandsons also got COVID-19. Both pulled through it. But due to some lingering effects of the virus, her 35-year-old daughter Jessica can't get vaccinated. Her doctor told her not to.

It's one of the reasons Cox, 74, got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — to protect her family members from getting sick. Because despite being high-risk for deadly complications from COVID-19, she still wasn't sure about getting vaccinated. Unfortunately, the spread of misinformation got to her.

She says she'd heard reports of "people passing out or people dying from getting the vaccine."

That's not true. The CDC says there may be three deaths caused by blood clots linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But all three vaccines - which also includes Pfizer and Moderna - in the U.S. are safe and effective. More than 177 million people have received at least one dose and reports of serious adverse effects are rare. People who get vaccinated may experience side effects like fever, sore arms or muscle pain. In rare cases, as with many vaccines, people experience more extreme side effects like blood clots and anaphylaxis.

But Cox didn't experience any side effects at the Mt. Airy Gardens Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, where the Hamilton County Health Department hosted one of its pop-up vaccination sites recently.

"I actually feel relieved right now. I didn't keel over and I'm OK," she said laughing.

"So God willing, this will keep me from getting really, really sick and maybe dying from it. So I just hope and pray this is all over soon."

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Jolene Almendarez
The Hamilton County Health Department hosts free vaccine sites throughout the county.

But addressing some of those concerns is part of why the health department is doing these pop-up clinics. Denice Shirley, a nurse for Impact Health, has been working at some of these traveling vaccination sites.

"A lot of people were saying, it's time for them to get it now," she said. "Either it might be required for work, it might be something that they just kind of been waiting to get more information about, and receive more information, and feel comfortable getting the vaccine now."

Most of the questions she fields at the clinics involve side effects, which she says vary from person to person.

The pop-up vaccination clinics also help bridge an accessibility gap.

For instance, Shirley gave several vaccinations inside the retirement home to people with mobility difficulty.

Accessibility also means just making it more convenient for people to get vaccinated.

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Jolene Almendarez
A man gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at a Hamilton County pop-up clinic in August.

Angel Galan, 32, says he lives near the nursing home, which made it convenient for him and his dad Manual Galan, 65, to get their second dose.

"Because then you don't have to drive far away to get vaccinated at the hospital, like in a huge line or something like that. Because, I mean, there's not really a lot of people right now," Angel Galan said.

Convenience is one of two major factors that lead to the two men getting vaccinated. The other was family.

"They just say it's better to get it right now. If not, then if I get the coronavirus, it's gonna be worse and stuff like that. You know, just trying to get me scared, I guess," he said laughing. "It worked a little bit."

So far, nearly 62% of people in the United States have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But in Hamilton County, only about 55% of the population has gotten at least one dose.