Like just about everybody, Thomas Rivera Jr. has encountered all the buzz on TV and the internet about COVID-19 vaccinations, both positive and negative. But when it came to his decision on getting the shot, family made the difference.
“I have a few health issues, and my daughter and granddaughter insisted I go,” says the 62-year-old maintenance technician from Allentown. “To be honest, I hated needles as a kid. I’ve gotten better with them as I got older, but after hearing about potential side effects with this vaccination I was still a little leery about going. But family is family.”
In April, Rivera accompanied daughter Monica Albino and granddaughter Leilani Collazo to the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic–MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township on two occasions for doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The family vaccination experience has been pretty common there.
“It’s happened several times at Whitehall,” says Sarah Rinker, RN, Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic staffing coordinator. “I was at a clinic at Catasauqua High School recently, and we took a picture with five family members. We see a lot of people’s willingness to get vaccinated can be related to the family’s overall feeling about getting the vaccine. To see entire families come out is heartwarming.”
Close encounter with COVID
“I actually had COVID-19 in November,” says Albino, a 40-year-old nail salon technician from Hellertown. “I thought it was a sinus infection at first. Then I lost my senses of smell and taste, and I had a fever. I knew before my doctor told me what is was. I was lucky in that it didn’t get too bad, but I still have trouble with a few mild side effects from it.”
Albino has since become a vaccination advocate, encouraging family members and friends about how the vaccine is the way out of this pandemic. Her daughter, Leilani Collazo, is just as passionate about getting the COVID-19 vaccination as her mom.
“I had to convince my boyfriend, who was really against it,” says the 20-year-old sales consultant from Hellertown. “He kept telling me how we didn’t really know what was in this vaccine, how he always gets sick when he gets any kind of shot. But I convinced him he was doing this for the good of his family and his community. He got the vaccination, and he was fine afterward. We’ve all been fine after getting our shots.”
Vaccination goals and advocacy
Vaccination activity has slowed at the Whitehall clinic in recent weeks, but Rinker believes the Biden administration’s goal of 70 percent nationwide by July 4 can be accomplished.
“It’s plateaued at all of our clinics, like most of the country,” Rinker says. “We’ve seen bumps with the 12-to-15-year-olds now getting vaccinated, and we think we’ll continue to see people needing the vaccination to return to the workplace or to schools. We just want to continue emphasizing how important vaccination is to finally ending this pandemic.”
Albino knows how challenging her advocacy can be.
“I have cousins who talk all the conspiracy theories, and it gets hard to listen to,” Albino says. “I avoid a lot of the news shows anymore because of that stuff. In the end, people are going to do what they’re comfortable doing. But I know I feel a lot better knowing my family members have been vaccinated.”