As Lauren Pierre spent 2020 completing her kinesiology degree from Temple University, and learning what health-care workers have endured since the coronavirus pandemic began, she became more committed to her goal of someday working in an emergency room.
So even though she’s questioned the COVID-19 vaccines, wondering whether they were safe and whether getting one would make her part of a test group, her ambition to join the medical field won out. On Saturday she got her first shot of Pfizer-BioNTech at a clinic in Delaware County, and felt immediate relief.
“As I pursue a career in medicine, I have to get it,” said Pierre, 25, who lives in North Philadelphia. “Especially if I’m going to be pushing it on people.”
With coronavirus case numbers on the rise in Pennsylvania and nationwide due to the highly contagious delta variant, businesses are considering vaccine mandates for employees and customers, and some local leaders are asking people to return to wearing masks. The U.S. is averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, a milestone last seen in November during the winter surge, leading public health officials and elected officials to sharpen their calls for more citizens to get vaccinated.
In Pennsylvania, about 63% of adults are fully vaccinated, more than the national average of 50%. And, in recent weeks, the number of shots given per day in Pennsylvania and nationwide has increased — a sign that the public campaign may be working.
Some of the 127 people who got shots at the Delaware County Wellness Center in Yeadon on Saturday said they were motivated less by reports of the delta variant than by looming deadlines like going back to school or work, or on vacation. The clinic is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for appointments and walk-ins.
Ginger Victoria, who lives in Media with her husband, in-laws, and three kids, said she got vaccinated as soon as she could but waited a few months to arrange shots for her 15-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. She wanted more teenagers to get the vaccines, she said, in order to feel more comfortable with the idea. On Saturday, she brought her kids to the Yeadon clinic for their second doses.
“We just don’t want anything to prevent them from being able to be in school full-time,” she said. “It’s risk vs. reward.”
Nathan Krauss said he’d gotten his first dose four days after his 12th birthday, the age kids are eligible. On Saturday, he was getting his second.
“Most of my friends already had it,” he said of the vaccine. “I want to get back to normal. Playing sports, seeing people.”
His mother, Elissa, said that despite taking precautions, the whole family got the coronavirus last year after brief exposure to a child who didn’t know he had it. She hopes Gov. Tom Wolf will require masks in school this fall to protect teachers and the kids who can’t yet be vaccinated. While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said students and staff in grades K-12 must wear masks when the school year begins, Wolf has said the decision should be made by local districts.
“My son played soccer in a mask,” Krauss said. “They adapt. It’s the parents who get in an uproar. The kids just want to be out there and to be in school.”
Betty Devinney, 86, got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday following months of urging by some of her 10 children and a close friend who said they couldn’t socialize unless she got a shot. Devinney, of Morton, also thinks a cruise she’s booked to Aruba this winter will require it.
Though her oldest son was hospitalized for almost two weeks with the virus in December, she didn’t think she needed the vaccine. At this point, even her granddaughter has been vaccinated before her.
“My kids kept bugging me, and bugging me, and bugging me,” she said. “I just said, ‘Fine, I’ll get it.’ ”
Pierre said she doesn’t like the idea of vaccine mandates in restaurants or other settings, but also acknowledged that for her, that’s an emotional response. Logically, she knows getting vaccinated is the right thing to do, particularly after some of her family members got sick last year. It also helped that over the months, most of her friends got the vaccine with no problems.
Edward Karen, who brought his 12-year-old daughter for her shot Saturday, said that after several colleagues at his landscaping company got sick from COVID-19, the business arranged a vaccination day that almost all employees attended — even some he’d thought would be skeptics.
“You would think people would understand that if you get the vaccine, we get back to some sense of normalcy,” he said. “But sometimes it takes someone you know getting sick to see that it’s real.”