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Voices from Tucson's newly vaccinated: Why they're getting their COVID shots now

In Tucson people are still getting the COVID-19 vaccine as cases in Pima County continue to spike, and the level of community transmission has gone to "high" since the beginning of the month.

Still dusty and sweaty from a day of working on rooftops in Tucson's sweltering summer, 25-year-old Ruben Barba waited for the required half-hour before finishing up his second vaccination against COVID-19.

"Everyone at work has gotten the vaccine, you know, so I thought I should too," Barba said. "It's no big deal, but I didn't get it earlier in the year with everyone else because I had COVID."

Barba pulled his mask down over a thick beard, and sighed. "It wasn't bad, but it was scary being sick, and I lost work." But, he's with a new company and his boss, he said, told him to take the time off to get vaccinated. "He told me to get it done and take some time. It's important."

Jack Lopez, 34, said he tried to get the vaccine over the last several months, "but I didn't have the time. I've got work, I've got kids, we're busy, and I kept putting it off."

"My wife got it down, and we're planning a trip soon, and she told me, if I wanted to come, I had to get vaccinated. And, I'm not missing this trip, bro."

Rudolfo Bringas, 12, and his mother Leticia Badilla, wanted to make sure that he got the vaccine to protect his 6-year-old sibling who has cerebral palsy and is schooling at home. A student at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, Bringas said that his friends don't talk about much except basketball, but that they told him they're all vaccinated.

"It's the best thing," Badilla said. "We wanted to protect our family, we want to protect him, and we're going to do this for all of us."

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Sylvia Abrams, 63, said she didn't trust the vaccines because, as a Black woman, she knows about the Tuskegee experiment and that "gives her pause."

"Will the government do the right thing for me? I don't know," she said. "But, I spoke to my pastor, my friends, my nieces, and they told me, get the shot."

Her second shot, she said, went smoothly. The process is so fast, she said. "I'm amazed that they can answer my questions. I can ask about the science, and someone can tell me about mRNA—I'm still not sure what that is, but at least they're trying. For me, it's about the willingness to explain. That matters to me."

Blanca Amador, 47, got her second dose, and she said she got her vaccinations because "the kids are going back to school."

She has five children at home along with her husband, including three who are hers. "The whole family has gotten vaccinated," she said. She said that her teenagers got it first, and her daughter, who turned 19 and is working at a barber shop, needs the protection that the vaccines can provide.

She laughed that her husband, and the boys were tired from the vaccines. "My daughter, she got it, and kept on going. My boys they wanted a little nap."

Lisa, a school teacher in Tucson, wouldn't give her last name because she was worried about backlash from parents, but said she just received her COVID booster shot from the Health Department. She said she had numerous breathing issues, including chronic asthma, and a compromised immune system, and that the third shot was necessary.

"I was sick in January before COVID-19 came up, and it was scary, I was sick for five weeks," she said. "It's taken me until now to get back to normal, and I knew that if I got that sick that COVID-19 would be really dangerous."

She said that she wanted to get vaccinated to protect her kids. "You know teachers joke that when we get sick from the kids, we should just give it back to them, but this is different. They can't get vaccinated, and so teachers need to help protect them. There's security in getting the vaccine."

She said that she worried about getting vaccinated because she has serious allergies, so she spoke to her doctor. "She told me not only not to worry, but that my conditions were the exact reason I should get the shot. So I did."

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Pima County has fully vaccinated about 563,000 people, or about 53.8 percent of the population.

The Last Best Shot

TucsonSentinel.com is one of dozens of news organizations around the country that are noted for reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and participating in "The Last Best Shot," an effort led by The Boston Globe to combat COVID-19 vaccination disinformation.

We have a clear choice. We can mark the start of a future in which COVID is relegated to little more than a nuisance, or we can watch the disease spiral further out of our grasp. Nearly 18 months after the pandemic shuttered much of the world, we are still in a state of uncertainty, one that threatens to steal yet another season and kill people who don't need to die.

The Last Best Shot reporting being published by the Sentinel and more than 50 outlets around the nation is meant to reinforce a simple fact: The only way out is vaccination. For every eligible person. Now.

See all of the #LastBestShot stories on the Sentinel here, and all of our coronavirus reporting here.

Stop the spread

The Pima County Health Department asks the public to help stop community spread of COVID-19 by taking the following steps:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu
  • Wear a mask when indoors, at schools and in public places
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Limit gathering in public spaces
  • Limit travel that is not essential
  • Get tested if you have covid-like symptoms
  • Isolate for 10 days from others if you test positive
  • Quarantine if you are exposed to someone who tests positive

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