‘Don’t be afraid.’ Veteran leaders host town hall on importance of COVID-19 vaccine
WATM CEO and Air Force veteran Mark Harper moderated an informative town hall specifically geared toward veterans on the COVID-19 vaccine. Speakers included leaders and medical personnel from prominent veteran organizations who aim to educate hesitant veterans while demystifying the vaccine itself.
Harper was open about his experiences during the pandemic. "I had a lot of friends and coworkers get COVID and some of them were very sick," he explained. "I looked at wearing a mask as something I should do to protect other people; I think of the vaccine the same way. Getting vaccinated was an extension of my service," Harper, an Air Force veteran shared.
One of the first speakers at the event was Dr. David Callaway, Team Rubicon's Chief Medical Officer. Callaway is also a Navy veteran with vast experience in the medical space. He was direct in explaining the importance of vaccination and the vital role veterans can play in the process. Callaway shared a story about his nephew contracting COVID. "He called me and said, 'I've got COVID, but it's no big deal and I'm going to live my life.'" Unfortunately, his nephew got his father sick, who ended up in the ICU (who has since made a full recovery). Callaway was also direct in addressing the common thought of many veterans that because they are young, healthy and haven't contracted the virus -- they don't need the vaccination. "Vaccines don't save lives, vaccinations save lives. The greatest science in world will not protect us unless we get vaccines into arms. Our country is calling on our veterans to lead the charge. This is part of our continued commitment to serving our country: Taking definitive action in times of uncertainty so that we can save the lives of our fellow Americans. You have a choice - to lead, to serve your community, to get vaccinated and to help your community emerge from this damn pandemic."
Dr. Jane Kim is the Chief Consultant for Preventative Medicine for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She discussed the VA's role in vaccination efforts and the current statistics on vaccinated veterans to date. Kim also provided important information on each of the vaccines available to American veterans today. Dr. Kim answered a question about how health care workers are feeling right now. "We're totally exhausted. The health care world has been over-extended throughout the pandemic, but we are so eager to answer any questions about why and how you can get vaccinated."
Josh Jabin, The Travis Manion Foundation's Chief Operating Officer and Marine Corps veteran, was also on the panel. "Right now my 9 year old has COVID," Jabin shared. My 6 year old is quarantining next door. I'm vaccinated so I'm taking care of her, but right now we don't know if our 6 month old is going to get it. Think of my kids when you're refusing the needle. Do it for my kids." He went into depth in explaining the foundation's reasoning for getting involved in vaccination efforts. Jablin also offered tangible and effective ways to communicate with friends or family hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. "Do it for those who are unable to get the vaccine - who don't have a choice."
To watch the Town Hall, click here.