‘The Vaccine Is Not the Best Option, but It Is the Only Option’

(Illustration by Denis Perez-Bravo / Richmond Pulse)

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By Denis Perez-Bravo

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine was the only viable option Richmond resident Thomasa Espinoza, 41, saw as a path back to normalcy.

Espinoza, a health promoter for Richmond’s Lifelong Health Center, has underlying conditions including high blood pressure and kidney problems.

“That is why I need to have protection,” she said.

At first, Espinoza was hesitant about getting the vaccine because she worried about how her body would react to it. When she received an email from her employers in December telling her she qualified to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, she sat down with her family to talk about it.

Though there are multiple COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of development, none have been fully approved, or licensed, by the U.S. and Food Drug Administration. The Moderna vaccine is one of two, however, that the FDA has approved for emergency use.

Espinoza, her husband and their three children all agreed that even though the vaccine is in the early stages, she should get it.

“The vaccine is not the best option, but it is the only option,” Espinoza said.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose procedure. She received the first dose in the first weeks of January and will wait until the second week of February to get the second.

As the days passed after her first dose, Espinoza showed no negative reactions to the vaccine apart from a sore shoulder for the first two days.

“I had worse reactions in the past when I took the flu shot,” she said. She is optimistic the second dose will work out the same, she said.

Espinoza is part of the first phase of a four-part plan for vaccination distribution in Contra Costa County.

County supervisor John Gioia detailed the goals of the county’s plan in a video on social media.

Contra Costa County Health Services plans to distribute 1 million doses by July 4. As of Jan. 27, 93,000 doses were given out to healthcare workers, employees and residents of long-term care facilities and people age 75 and older.

These vaccines are being given at the Richmond Auditorium, Contra Costa College and the West County Health Center in San Pablo.

Oli Diaz, who also educates and advocates for community members as a Lifelong Richmond health promoter, decided to get the Moderna vaccine too.

On Jan, 12, Diaz, 60, visited a Lifelong Medical Health Center in Oakland to get the first shot because the centers in Richmond were backed up.

At the clinic, a nurse at the front desk confirmed her identity. She was taken to a room where she sat down and was given the vaccine.

“It was fast, and I didn’t even see them put it in,” Diaz said.

Diaz, like Espinoza, anticipated a reaction to the vaccine. In the past, Diaz reacted badly to a shingles vaccination, so she suspected she might go through something similar with the Moderna vaccine.

“I only had very light headaches,” Diaz said.

She thinks it’s natural to have doubts about the vaccine, but with the deadly coronavirus continuing to spread, people need to be protected.

“If the community can take the vaccine they should. They should feel OK knowing the benefits they will receive will outweigh the side effects,” Diaz said.

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