Co-owner of Westside Journal Weekly Newspaper, the columnist used his voice to share his doubts and mistrust with the U.S. health professionals who had been encouraging everyone to get the vaccine.
West recently wrote, "I don't trust the Federal Government." "I don't trust Dr. Fauci. I don't trust the medical profession nor the pharmaceutical giants."
However, something changed his mind. Two of West's closest friends fell ill with the virus and one died. He was stressed and agitated, so he prayed for help. He took the sign from God when his mother and another relative urged him to get vaccinated. West drove to Winn Dixie and pulled up his sleeves for the first of two Moderna vaccine injections.
He said, "All of the sudden it hit real close home."
West isn't the only one. This inland Nassau County area, located between Jacksonville and Okefenokee Swamp at Georgia-Florida, is seeing a devastating resurgence in the coronavirus. It has even made some vaccine skeptics question their belief.
The county of 89,000 recorded 810 coronavirus cases in the week ended July 29. It was the highest in Florida at that time, and one of the epicenters for a spike in infection caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Many family members were infected by the latest pandemic wave, surprising some county residents who thought it was over. Callahan is a small town of approximately 1,000 people. One young lady saw her fiance, mother, and grandmother all succumb to COVID-19 within one week.
Dwight Allen is the pastor of The Anchor Church of God's 200-member congregation. He said, "I've never seen fear grip people like this." Allen answers members' questions about the shot by saying that he was jabbed without any side effects.
Dr. Phillips Cao is a family physician who sees patients at the University of Florida Health Clinic in Callahan. He said that many older adults in the area had received coronavirus shots several months ago. However, younger adults put off the shots as the incidence of the virus rose sharply in spring.
"Everybody believed it was dying out or disappearing." He said, "Then this new variant came in." It was just in time for another bad surge.
Cao stated that he used to see one coronavirus patient per two weeks before the Fourth of July. He now tests seven patients per day, he stated. He usually tests five of his patients for the virus and sends two to a hospital.
This could be a reason why more people are getting shots. According to state health data, nearly 4,400 people were vaccinated in Nassau County during the three-week period that ended Aug. 12. This is enough to nearly 11% increase in county total vaccinations.
Callahan Funeral Home hadn't handled COVID-19 victim arrangements since April, prior to this latest outbreak. This has changed. Ellis McAninch, the owner, said that he has overseen five funerals for people who have died from the virus since July. This is more than half of his business in the last month.
McAninch, 61, was not vaccinated despite his age, proximity to viruses, his chronic lung disease, and his recent bout with COVID-19. McAninch admitted that he was initially concerned about how fast the shots were produced. He realized that he was too busy waiting for the shots to be developed that he couldn't make a decision.
He said, "I should have had this done already." "Now is the time to bite.
Although the process of developing the vaccines was extremely fast, it was also the culmination many years of research. These vaccines were tested on thousands of people in clinical trials. They have been administered to millions of people for eight months without any serious safety concerns.
There are still some people who will not be influenced.
Frances Sims, 80, refuses to be vaccinated in Hilliard, a Nassau County town of 3,100. Sims stated that she was concerned about vaccines for schoolchildren being harmful and demanded that her grandchildren be exempted from the COVID-19 program.
Two of Sims' children convinced her husband to get vaccinated after several members of her family became ill from the coronavirus. She won't give up.
She said that some of them were "kind of annoyed with me." Sims stated, "They say, Mama, if it's not yours, you might die." "I trust the Lord to take good care of me. It's my time to die.
Kenny Sims was her son and a Hilliard Town Councilman. His employer announced plans to reduce paid leave for workers who were exposed to the virus.
He is glad he did. Sims and his wife were forced to take care of their 1-year-old grandson and their son, when the summer surge struck. Although he believes that the vaccine protected Sims and his wife from becoming sick, he isn't sure the shots are 100% safe.
Kenny Sims stated, "I haven't sold that the vaccine is the solution." "But it's the lesser evil."