When Terry Dang, a hospital phone system communications supervisor at Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest, received a notice that he was eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, he felt like he had received a “golden ticket.”
“I jumped at the opportunity and was one of the first to get vaccinated,” he says. “I knew that it would bring all sorts of good things, such as a path back to normalcy with large family gatherings, travel, and even mundane trips to the grocery store.”
Dang chose to get vaccinated because, as he says, “I felt it was my responsibility to take every precaution to protect my family. I would not be able to live with myself if something were to happen to them, knowing that I had an opportunity to prevent them from getting sick or dying.”
A few of Dang’s friends and family have had COVID-19, and not all were able to recover. “It’s heartbreaking and doesn’t seem real until it invades your own community,” he says.
Like many Vietnamese American families, members of the younger generation in Dang’s family help their elders navigate everyday life (and now, pandemic life) by serving as interpreters. He remembers that on the day his parents were scheduled for their COVID-19 vaccinations, he held their place in line for 3 hours in the cold and rain while they waited in their nearby car. When he was almost to the front of the line, the clinic (located in another state) announced that it had run out of vaccine.
“It was disappointing to see hundreds of senior citizens, many with walkers and wheelchairs, get turned away,” Dang says. “They looked defeated.”
Because of his high confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, he persisted and brought his parents back to the clinic 2 weeks later. “I felt blessed that they were able to get vaccinated,” he says. “I have a lot of empathy for others who haven’t been successful. I encourage everyone to keep trying. It’s that important.”
Besides wanting to protect his family from the virus, Dang has another reason to get vaccinated — to protect his work family. He worried that if his staff members got sick, their friends and family would suffer, and he didn’t want that to happen. He also worried that there would be no one to operate the phones, assist our physicians, and launch critical hospital codes.
“The potential impact to the organization — and to our patients — was unthinkable,” Dang says.
He hopes everyone will choose to get vaccinated, but he knows that some people are still wrestling with their decision. Dang wants them to know that the vaccines are safe and effective. And, in case anyone is wondering: No, you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Also, side effects are normal and generally mild.
And, when you get your golden ticket, roll up your sleeve and know that you are doing something valuable to help your family, friends, community — and the world.