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‘The vaccine is safe.’ Shauna Weatherby spreads a simple message to everyone in Pierce County.

Shauna Weatherby believes strongly in all vaccines. She’s a nurse practitioner focused on women’s health at MultiCare in Tacoma and has worked in public health in Pierce County for 40 years. 

When it was her turn to get vaccinated for COVID-19, she was “first in line.”

“I’ve always been on the frontline, advocating for healthcare,” she said. “Especially in communities of color.”

Nurse practitioner Shauna Weatherby speaks with a colleague.

Shauna’s heard concerns from people about the COVID-19 vaccines. Some question the safety and development. Others worry about side-effects or just don’t trust the medical system or the government. She listens to each concern and tries her best to provide important information.

“My message is simple,” she said. “The vaccine is safe.”

“I know there are a lot of media sources these days giving out information that is not scientifically based. I point to the science.”

Science like the fact that the process to approve and monitor vaccines has been around for years. It’s the same process used to develop vaccines for the measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), and the seasonal flu.

“The science is not new,” she said. “And it’s been very effective. All the right steps were followed in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

In clinical trials all three of the available vaccines proved to be extremely effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19 and limiting the severity of the illness, hospitalization and death.

“A lot of my patients are young, and they don’t remember the polio vaccine and what a difference it made for the population in the ‘50s,” Shauna said. “They also don’t know about the flu epidemic in 1918 and how it wiped out populations. So, I share that with them.”

Comfort, barriers and access.

Some people don’t trust or even fear the healthcare system because of the bad experiences they’ve had in the past. 

“I get that,” Shauna said. “As a child and professional, I have been discriminated against in the healthcare system.”

That’s why she tries to steer people to providers they feel comfortable with or clinics that are within their community and sensitive to their cultural needs.   

She pointed to a recent popup clinic at Shiloh Baptist Church in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood as a great example of how people within communities can support each other.

“That’s what communities can do, and communities of faith do best,” she said. “Motivate and build a bridge. Make it easier for people to get vaccinated. Build trust and help each other.”

Income is also a challenge for some. 

“It’s surprising how many people still don’t know that the COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone,” she said. “Whether or not you have insurance—it’s free. People need to know that!”

Transportation can be an issue as well. A lot of people might not also know that Pierce Transit offers free rides for COVID-19 vaccination appointments

“For some it’s just getting them the resources they need to get there,” she said. 

A stronger future together.

These are hopeful times. With everyone 16 and older in Pierce County set to become eligible April 15 to get COVID-19 vaccine, we are turning a corner toward the end of this pandemic.

But for us to achieve community immunity, we need as many people as possible who are eligible to get vaccinated to do so. Scientists estimate that to control COVID-19, about 7 or 8 of every 10 people will need to be immune. And the COVID-19 vaccine is your pathway to help your community achieve immunity.

After her first dose of vaccine, Shauna’s arm hurt as she expected it would. With the second dose, she got a fever and chills.

“That was my body’s way of saying ‘You are fighting against this virus,’” she said. “My body was recognizing the antibody and fighting. So that was a good thing. I said, ‘Let’s fight. Let’s do this.’”

She understands worries about adverse reactions to the vaccine and acknowledges fear is real. Everyone is different and the vaccine affects people differently.

But Shauna also understands the alternative.

“Death is real,” she said. “We know that COVID kills. We all know somebody in our circle who has lost someone to COVID.”

That’s why she tells everyone it is so important to get vaccinated. It’s a pathway to real and practical hope to end the pandemic. And it’s your pathway to more mask-free opportunities in your future—and getting back to what you love.

“I’m on the frontlines fighting for health and wellness,” she said. “Dealing with patients mask-to-mask. We all need to get the vaccine. It won’t change everything overnight, but it will put us on the right path forward, and we will be able to come out from behind those masks!”

Find vaccine near you.

Use the state’s Vaccine Locator tool to find healthcare providers and pharmacies with vaccine near you. Check our website at each weekday at 9 a.m. for upcoming vaccination opportunities and locations with vaccine appointments.