Vaccine Voices: Getting vaccinated is an opportunity to ‘be a hero and save your community’

The moment Victoria Leo learned Mercy Flights was sponsoring a drive-through vaccination clinic, she began counting the days until her appointment. On the eve of the big day, she was so excited she couldn’t sleep— And rightly so. Victoria, an author and retired psychotherapist, has an underlying condition that could make a COVID-19 infection especially dangerous.

For more than a year, she’d stuck close to her rural Ashland home, enduring what her husband joked was akin to house arrest. But once fully vaccinated, Victoria’s world opened. “It was really a profound change because instead of knowing that I was at risk of death with nothing I could do about it, I had this powerful feeling that I had taken effective action. We’re not talking about popping parasite pills I used to give my rabbit. I felt this incredible surge of agency. I can do things that are low-risk.”

Victoria Leo

But even though Victoria is doing what she can to stay healthy, she remains wary of those around her who refuse to do the same. And, while Victoria is surrounded by people who believe in science and are happily vaccinated, she also frequently hears from others who’ve adopted the motto, ”Oh, if you want to be afraid and stay home, go ahead. I’m going to live my life.” Victoria’s idea of living life is staying healthy. That mindset, she said, comes from her fondness for history and her background in health.

“I know all about the great plagues of human history,” said Victoria. “My ancestors were the lucky ones who survived typhoid, the bubonic plaque, yellow fever… The year I was born my mother lived in terror for two years until there was a polio vaccine. I heard those stories and I understand how my grandparents’ and parents’ generations lost children to things that can be prevented. I want to stay healthy, I have novels to write. I’m afraid of things that are worthy of concern. I’m concerned about COVID. I don’t walk around at night because I don’t want to run into a cougar. These are valid real concerns.”

Leo is about to leave Ashland for the first time in 18 months, taking a vacation at a resort that adheres to stringent COVID-19 precautions. She and her husband will drive, wear masks, stay 10 feet away from others and use hand sanitizer often. Because she is vaccinated, she believes it’s a reasonable risk. She also plans to get the booster and, as she has from the start, will continue to encourage others to get vaccinated.

“I’ve spoken to people about the vaccine. I tell them, there are so few opportunities to be a hero and save your community. If you’re not vaccinated it’s not just you you are going to kill, it is me. For me, that’s a really powerful driver. I don’t want to die, but even more powerful than that I don’t want to die is I don’t want to kill other people.”