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Board of Health Member Dave Morell got his COVID-19 vaccine shot. Now he wants you to do the same.

Dave Morell wants to see his grandkids again. He wants to travel freely around the state and country. And he wants all of Pierce County’s struggling businesses to get back to 100% capacity.

For those reasons and many more, the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health member and Pierce County Council District 1 representative got his single-shot dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine last week at one of our drive-thru clinics in Sumner.

“The more shots in arms that we can get out there, the quicker we can get this thing turned around,” he said.

Councilman Dave Morell gives two thumbs up after getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

Less than a week after Morell got his shot, Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration recommended pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to investigate six cases of severe blood clotting among the 6.8 million people who have received doses in the U.S.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department halted the use of Johnson & Johnson as we await the results of the investigation. 

The news caught Morell by surprise, but he still believes getting the vaccine was the right thing to do. 

“I have no regrets,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. I’m glad it’s done. Now I can move on with my life hopefully and enjoy some of the things that have been lacking in the last year.”

Morell knows people have concerns about all the vaccines, but he also knows getting vaccinated is our best path out of this pandemic. It’s the best way to get back to hiking with his grandkids. And the quickest way to bring back Daffodil Parades and rides at the Washington State Fair.

“We’ve got to catch up on vaccinations,” he said. “We’re double-digits behind King County. Now that the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been put on hold, that’s even more of a challenge.”

Protecting businesses.

Pierce County is moving back to Phase 2 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan on Friday, April 16, because we failed to meet the required metrics for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

That means restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores will have to limit capacity again to 25%. Gyms, spas and many other businesses will be under tighter restrictions as well

“One reason I got vaccinated is for our businesses,” Morell said. “That way I can do my part to make sure they don’t continually take the brunt of the impact of this pandemic.

So many small businesses have closed. So many others are struggling to survive. Morell sees the vaccine as one of the most effective tools to jumpstart our economy.

“Getting vaccinated is the best thing we all can do right now to protect our businesses,” he said. “We’ve got to get these numbers down to make sure the guidelines are met.”

We also need to stick with what works.

“We still got to do the basics,” he said. “Mask up, social distance and watch your gatherings. We’re not out of this yet.”

“We’ve got to help our businesses and get our metrics down. So, that’s what I’m attempting to do by getting vaccinated.”

Safety and side-effects.

Morell already had concerns about getting the vaccine, even before the use of Johnson & Johnson was put on hold. He’s had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past. That was one reason he wanted to get the one-and-done shot.

“I’ve talked to a few of my friends who’ve had vaccines, even the Pfizer and Moderna ones, and they’ve had side-effects,” he said. “So, I knew I probably wasn’t going to get off Scot-free with my history. Better to just have to go through that once.”

He came prepared with his EpiPen and braced for an adverse reaction. He was fine at the clinic, but symptoms came quickly the next day.

“To be honest, it kicked my butt,” he said.

Joint pain and back spasms kept him at home through the weekend. He even missed a race he was set to participate in for the first time.

“I was hoping I’d get off unscathed,” he said. “I didn’t, but the side-effects are minimal compared to the hopeful protection I’ll get in the next three weeks.”

Morell says he’s heard people question the safety and development of all the vaccines. But he knows the science is sound.

“The legitimacy of the work that they did is well documented,” he said. “Sure, it was quicker than most with the FDA approval processes—but we’ve been doing vaccines in the United States for a long, long time.”

Even the pause of Johnson & Johnson shows that the vaccination safety system is working swiftly to investigate the rarest of reactions in the COVID-19 vaccine effort. CDC and the FDA took quick action out of an abundance of caution to allow experts a chance to investigate whether or not the cases are related to the vaccine.

“I looked at the reason why they paused it, and I feel bad for the women that have had blood issues,” Morell said. “But once I read what they were concerned about and how rare the cases are, I felt much better.”

Removing the mask.

Staying vigilant in our daily lives is important to limiting the spread of COVID-19. But Morell, like many of us, is also looking forward to the day we can get back to interacting with each other as we did before. He knows the vaccine is the best way to get there.

“The whole mask wearing is a pain in the butt to be honest with you,” he said. “I can’t hear very well, so unless I get close when you are talking I can’t hear you.”

Life has changed so much since the pandemic began. We’ve stayed at home. We avoid physical contact. We cover our mouths and noses everywhere we go. It can be frustrating, Morell said. 

These safety measures are important and will continue to be in place for quite some time. But fully vaccinated people are already enjoying more mask-free opportunities at home and in small groups. For us to achieve community immunity, we need everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated to do so.   

“It will be nice someday to get rid of the masks and actually see your lips moving and your facial expressions and see the smile that people have once they don’t have to wear these masks,” Morell said. “I am definitely looking forward to that.”

Seeing the grandkids.

Perhaps the biggest incentive of all is family. Morell can’t wait to take his grandkids on trips again to Point Defiance and the Carbon River.  Bring them out for dinner and a movie. Just have them over to his house for a barbecue and sleepover.

“I’m looking for that reunion,” he said. “I’ve purposely stayed away. I’ve got seven grandkids, and I’ve only seen them maybe once since this pandemic began.”

Some of the most hopeful images we’ve seen this spring are those of grandparents coming together again with their grandkids. Hugs, smiles and laughter. It’s the surest sign of better days to come. Morell wants that again, too.

“They would usually spend a night or two at my place,” he said. “Give their parents a little respite. They’ve had the kids for 14 months now nonstop.”’

Morell knows it will take time to get back to where we want to, but the masks will come off eventually. We’ll fill up businesses again. And we’ll come together as family and friends safely soon.

“I can’t wait for that reunion where I can confidently participate in family get-togethers without worrying about the spread of COVID-19,” Morell said. “I’m looking forward to that more than anything!”

Getting everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated to do so is our quickest and most effective path to that future.

“Those who are able to, please help out,” he added. “Do your part for your community. Do your part for businesses in Pierce County. Get vaccinated!”

To learn about COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, visit tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.