TRENDS Podcast: Coronavirus Vaccines – Voices From the Community

The TRENDS podcast is a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Boulder County and KGNU. It dives deep into the community’s most pressing issues and explores the changes happening throughout Boulder County through the experiences of community members, especially those often rendered invisible by commercial media, to shed light on community challenges, solutions, and pathways forward for the county and the country.

featured image: Fred Glover in line for a coronavirus vaccine.

Listen to the Coronavirus Vaccine: Community Voices TRENDS podcast episode

itunes podcastSubscribe to TRENDS on iTunes to get new editions automatically. Also on Spotify and Stitcher.

It has been almost one year since the first lockdown order went into effect in Boulder County to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  People are experiencing COVID-19 fatigue and are anxious to know when things might start to return to some normalcy.

People being monitored in a waiting room after receiving their coronavirus vaccines in Boulder County

Experts and government officials tell us that, although the future remains uncertain, the timeline depends greatly on following precautionary guidelines, like mask use and social distancing, and on a large portion of the population getting the vaccine.

CDC experts are still trying to determine the percentage of the population that needs to either get the vaccine or have had the disease to achieve herd immunity.  Most estimates are around 70 to 75 percent.

Michael, a nurse at a Boulder County vaccine clinic, administers a coronavirus vaccine to Fred Glover

This is a very high number, not only because of the challenges in rolling out the vaccine program but also because not everyone is willing or able to get the vaccine.  The reasons for this are many, including fear, mistrust, medical issues, and those who choose not to get vaccinated.

Fred Glover, a distinguished professor who retired from CU Boulder, got his first vaccine on an icy early morning in February.

Glover says that it is unfortunate that some people are afraid of a vaccine.

“If you don’t get the vaccine versus the likelihood of having a reaction, if you do, there’s just no comparison. It’s all your chances of coming up ahead are just dramatically better, if you get the vaccine,” he said.

Glover lost a brother to polio when he was  14 years old, a year before the polio vaccine became available. “And my gosh, if we had only had that vaccine, my brother’s death could have been avoided. And all of the people whose lives were saved by that vaccine is a testimony to the importance of getting a vaccine for a serious illness when it’s available.”

Raquel Cagan, a neuropsychologist who lives in Boulder, was born in Colombia and worked primarily with young children, specifically in underserved and impoverished communities.

She remembers a time when children were encouraged to donate 10 cents to help eradicate polio in other parts of the world.

“I remember as a child well, and we moved to this country, you had to go and give 10 cents to the March of Dimes… my mom didn’t have a lot of money, but I had my 10 cents and you went and you put it in a little canister with nurses there and that money was used to make the polio vaccines available to everybody. And it was this huge campaign,” says Cagan.

María Ester Peña, a local resident born in Mexico, is well known in the community for always speaking her mind. Peña says that she knows lots of people who do not accept the vaccine because they do not know the long-term effects.

She says that since it is such a new vaccine, it has not been tested enough, and while it could be safe in the short term, the long-term effects are unknown.

María Ester Peña

“Yo no sé algunos dicen que no está probado suficientemente porque tal vez a corto plazo sí lo está bien pero a veces las vacunas tienen efectos a largo plazo años después y por eso muchísima gente desconfía”, dice Peña.

Peña explains that she does not use western medicine because she cannot tolerate it. When she came from Mexico, she came with her bag of natural medicines, and she consulted her natural books.

Peña says that many Latino people that she knows get cured with herbs and, more importantly, with diet… “Yo conozco a muchas personas latinas que se curan con hierbas y con dieta; desde luego que es bien importante la dieta.”

Lizbeth Mendoza, a cultural broker from Boulder Public Health, says that her organization has to bring forward science and evidence for the vaccine. Still, she says the decision of taking or not taking the vaccine is up to the patient.

“We understand, people have different ways of thinking and understanding their healthcare. Again our job in this now we’re a style of medicine is to again, bring the science, the evidence backs up, the safety and the importance for the public health, we’re seeing it now worldwide on immunizations. We know everybody has their own way of approaching their own healthcare, and it’s okay. You know, we, and again, we use science and evidence, and there’s where we are coming from. And all we can do is really bring it in and show it the best way we know that’s what we know. And that will be a decision finally, of the patients.”

Jessica Pérez, Medical Assitant in charge of vaccine distribution, in Salud Clinica in Longmont

Mendoza says that some people will have immunity and some people will not, so the group of people that become immune are there to protect those who cannot get vaccinated, a concept known as herd immunity.

“Some people will have more resistance to developing severe disease and other complications, and some people will not, but there’s also a group of people who do not get vaccinated because they can’t, they really can’t. The group of people who are protected are immunized and will help protect the rest of the people,” says Mendoza.

Brigitte Mars, a KGNU producer and local herbalist who has written more than 50 books about the power of plants and healers, says the issue of vaccines has become very politicized and is dividing people.

“It’s almost like we have a silent enemy, and it really is dividing people even within families,” says Mars. She thinks that we need to be paying attention to our immunity every day because it’s not just the virus that is impacting our health. “It’s cancer, diabetes, heart disease and strokes, and so many things. And the toxic mess that our environment is in, which is probably, you know, we probably do need to reset.”

Mars recommends eating as healthy as possible, colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Things like sweet potatoes or baked winter squash with raw garlic on it. You know, when Dr. Albert Schweitzer was in Africa, and he didn’t have penicillin or antibiotics, he used garlic. And so garlic is a Bronco dilator. We know that this disorder can create a lot of mucus and phlegm. So maybe this is a good time not to eat a lot of dairy products. Maybe this is a time to get off your allergens and your addictions. You know, if you’re eating foods that are making you sick all the time, what are you doing? Like wake up. You don’t have time for this. So eating all the different colors of the rainbow, blueberries, green, kale, purple cabbage. We know that there’s many foods that are really good for our lungs and breaking up congestion, things like garlic, onions, cayenne pepper, ginger.”

While scientists and the medical community say the coronavirus vaccines are safe, Mars says that people are understandably wary.

“Science has given us  DDT and mercury fillings and fluoride in our water. And you know, a couple of hundred years ago it was like putting leeches to draw out blood. So again, we don’t always know the long-term side effects till a long time later.”

Mars says ultimately, people need to learn to take better care of themselves and their overall health. “Learn to honor your health every day… exercise, breathe that fresh air, don’t mess around with things that are gonna make you sick and be in a state of mind because fear is probably one of the things that really compromises our immunity.”


Boulder County Public Health links and resources:

Vaccine Page

Notification Form