Uniontown Hospital CEO urges all residents to get vaccine
By Jennifer Garofalo
Anyone debating about whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine needs to consider one simple fact, according to WVU Medicine Uniontown Hospital’s CEO.
“The risk of the disease is way worse than the very small risk of the vaccine,” said Dr. David Hess.
Fayette County is seeing a fourth, smaller wave of covid cases, Hess said, so it’s imperative for residents to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
On Monday, the hospital had 21 COVID-19 inpatients, he said. It was the most since January. And the county’s average number of daily new cases for April is 46 – up from averages in the 20s in February and March.
Hess said he’s concerned because there’s been a drop in the number of people looking for the vaccine.
“We’re struggling to get enough people to fill up our days (at the mall clinic),” Hess said.
The clinics offered through the county’s vaccine registry primarily distributes Pfizer, a two-dose regimen. Moderna is also a two-dose vaccine.
Earlier this week, use of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine was paused by the FDA after a small number of people developed blood clots.
Hess, on Tuesday, encouraged those scheduled for a J&J vaccine to sign up with the county and get a two-dose shot. The state opened up vaccinations to all residents 16 and older.
“I’m just concerned if we get apathetic too soon,” he said, “we’re going to see a bigger fourth spike than we already are and it’s going to ruin everyone’s summer.”
Hess said there are plenty of practical reasons to get vaccinated – from not needing to quarantine if exposed to someone who’s tested positive, to being able to travel with less risk.
“But really,” he said, “it’s about drawing on the human side of you.”
Getting a vaccine means hugging family, spending time in-person with loved ones or attending gatherings in person without fear of getting or spreading the virus, he said.
There’s also a psychological effect.
“Two weeks after my second dose, I almost felt like I could take a deeper breath. It was an incredible feeling knowing I was as protected as I could possibly be,” he said. “I want as many people as possible to have that feeling.”
Studies are still being done to determine whether vaccines will completely prevent a person from getting COVID-19, Hess said.
“What we are 100% sure on is this: These vaccines definitely prevent you from getting severe disease, and prevent you from going into the hospital,” he said.
He said everyone should want to be protected, no matter their age, because of the potential long-term side effects of the coronavirus.
So-called “long haulers” are those who have had the virus and find symptoms like heart problems, brain fog or fatigue persist for months.
“My concern for my younger patients and my family isn’t death – but I’m certainly worried that if they do get COVID and they’re not vaccinated they could have these long-term (health issues),” he said.
To those who are still on the fence about getting vaccine, Hess said he feels so confident they are safe that he had his 16-year-old daughters get them.
“The science says these vaccines are safe and effective,” he said. “Getting one is the best investment in your health that you could ever make.”