Health Advice



A day at a St. Louis County walk-in clinic shows why some vaccine holdouts are changing their minds

Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Health & Fitness

"It's mainly to keep people around me safe. I don't want to risk giving it to them," Anderson said. "Even if it doesn't make a difference for me, it makes the people I love feel better."

'Do my part'

Dante Wiggins, 45, of Spanish Lake, was never against getting vaccinated.

"I was listening to people's reasons they don't do it, and they sound dumb," Wiggins said. "I don't want to be that guy, especially with all this stuff going on."

The surge in cases made him finally pull into the health clinic instead of driving past and get his first shot, with his smiling, snuggly 7-year-old daughter in tow.

"It's mainly for her. I don't want anything to happen to her," Wiggins said, because those younger than 12 aren't yet eligible for the vaccine. He's also a school bus driver.

"At this point, we should be done" with the pandemic, he said. "We are still dealing with this, and I need to do my part."

Trusted advice

If it wasn't for her daughter, a pharmacist, telling her about the safety of the vaccines, Linda Govan, 65, says she would never have gotten a shot.

"I was concerned about how quickly they came out," said Govan, of St. Louis. The technology behind the vaccines has been in the works for decades, her daughter explained, and they still underwent large and rigorous studies.

Now with two doses done, Govan said she feels safer being around her grandchildren given her age and being a recent breast cancer survivor.

She feels better protected doing her job in custodial work for the county health department and hopes to get rehired at Mercy, where she worked as a patient benefit adviser before getting laid off last summer. Mercy employees are required to get vaccinated.

Life-or-death issue

Pam Bryant, 64, of St. Charles, got her first dose despite being adamantly against it. She resisted, she said, because of a history in medicine marred by racial injustices, such as involuntary medical experimentation, forced sterilizations and unequal access to care.

"They've done so much to us. You don't know what's in these shots really," Bryan said. "I'm just skeptical of government and what has transpired in the past."

But she sees unvaccinated people filling up hospitals. She is older and has high blood pressure, placing her at higher risk.


"It's a life-or-death issue now, as far as I'm concerned," she said.

Her husband, however, is refusing to get vaccinated, and she's not trying to convince him.

"I respect his decision because I feel the same way ... that's his choice," she said.

'So much further to go'

A total of 51 people got doses last Wednesday at the health center. Thirty-four were getting their first dose, and most were walk-ins.

Site supervisor Lawanda Crayton said that's a switch from just a couple of weeks ago, when most were appointments for their second doses and less than a dozen people were getting vaccinated in a day.

Numbers were increasing, she said.

"They are saying, 'I have a family member in the hospital,' or, 'I have someone close to me get sick,'" Crayton said.

Nurse Rebecca Rozycki said she is spending more time with people, answering questions before they get the jab. Many are in her chair because they've lost loved ones, or a trusted person told them they should get the shot.

"They thought they didn't have to worry about it anymore," Rozycki said. "But now it's back."

The county health department has data tabulated for doses it has given out only through July 15. It has mirrored the statewide trajectory.

After giving more than 18,000 shots a week in mid-April, that number dropped to just about 500 a week in June and the first half of July.

State data shows 51% of county residents have initiated vaccination, with the lowest percentages in northern ZIP codes where a large percentage of Black residents live.

But the ZIP codes are starting to show some of the biggest increase in percentages, said Ave, of the county health department. They could be signs that outreach efforts are working.

"We have seen some progress. We are seeing people in our most vulnerable areas get vaccinated," Ave said. "We haven't turned a corner, but we are encouraged to a degree. We know there's so much further to go."

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