Sun Cities residents have been overwhelmingly lining up to get coronavirus vaccines, and that move may help them as more transmissible variants arrive in the region.
Jason Brown, Banner Health chief medical officer, said the Federal Drug Administration authorized the COVID-19 vaccines as safe after a rigorous safety monitoring process and millions have received the vaccine, including tends of thousands in the Sun Cities. Adverser reactions to the vaccine have been rare, and the three vaccines so far approved for use in the U.S. have proved to be effective in keeping people alive and out of the hospital.
“The vaccines not only reduced deaths and hospitalizations, but also reduced transmission. I think the goal is to get vaccinated to lead your normal life and individuals can go golfing and have social events with friends and remain safe and out of the hospital,” he explained.
Overall, Sun Cities residents have embraced the vaccine, according to numbers compiled by the Arizona Department of Health Services. About 84% of people living in the Sun City West ZIP code of 85375, or 23,342 people, had received the vaccine as of July 1. In Sun City, 81% of people in the 85351 ZIP code, or 22,557 people as of July 1, had been vaccinated.
The laggard ZIP code was 85373, which includes the northern part of Sun City as well as parts of Peoria, has a 58% vaccination rate with 11,207 people vaccinated as of July 1, according to ADHS.
Residents speaking about the vaccine offered mixed opinions of the effort. Some Sun City and Sun City West residents were asked if they believed in the vaccine and if they had any concerns about it. Only Sun City residents responded.
Carolyn Copeland stated in an email that too many people are motivated by fear of vaccines, but they should just trust the medical professionals. Ursula Beyer also believes in the vaccine. She had both shots in March and had no side effects other than a sore arm.
Greg Eisert said he believes receiving the COVID vaccine is a must.
“Sources, whether science-based or otherwise, clearly portray whatever side-effect risks exist,” he stated in an email. “They are minimal given the alternative — possible devastation. Also, without a sufficient percent of global coverage, the disease doesn’t stand much chance to effectively be controlled.”
Priscilla Fenner describes herself as a rule follower, especially where her health is concerned. She had the COVID vaccine and is now back to volunteering and enjoying the company of similarly vaccinated friends.
“If we want things to get back to normal, we all need to be vaccinated,” she stated in an email. “Personally, I had no side affects from either shot.”
While she said she believes the vaccine is important, Marilyn Dumbauld acknowledged there are risks whenever foreign material is introduced into the body.
“One must weigh the risk of contracting the disease or a reaction to the vaccine,” she stated in an email. “I would error on the side of a reaction to the vaccine as it would be a rare occurrence.”
Ted Dumbauld said he believes the vaccines should be given, but that it should not be mandatory.
“Every person should have the freedom of choice,” he stated in an email.
Loretta Duryea of Sun City West posted on the Sun City West Facebook page June 25, “Sure would not want the Delta variant here in Sun City West. Get your vaccine!”
However, some residents are uncertain. Barbara Chait is concerned about other conditions the vaccine could cause.
“We have found young people suffer cardiac problems,” she stated in an email. “Pericarditis is painful and dangerous. Can this condition possibly also occur in the elderly?”
Carol Engberg is concerned the vaccines never went through the four-year process to examine the long-term affects of the drug.
“My husband and I both had COVID and feel we have antibodies to protect us from any variant,” she stated in an email. “We will not receive the vaccine. We also feel if doctors had allowed the medicine Ivermectin to be prescribed, thousands of lives could have been saved.”
Brown said it is about educating people on how safe the vaccines really are and the value they bring to ensure they can get back to a normal life and enjoy the things individuals like to do. He said vaccines historically show big side effects, usually within the first six weeks.
“The vaccines are not just monitored through clinical trials, but after that, too. There are robust systems in place and if anything needs to be changed with the vaccine it will be,” Brown explained.
In Arizona, 1.2 million people 65 and older received the vaccine by June 30. In Maricopa County that number is 662,762.
With the news of variants now in the United States, Brown said the best thing is for everyone to get vaccinated to help reduce the risk of further spread of the virus. He said what is going to happen if individuals do not get vaccinated is more variants will develop and there is a risk of a COVID-19 resurgence. With the area’s senior population and those with health conditions who are at greater risk, Brown said the vaccination helps to protect loved ones, and those vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus.
According to the Banner Health website, health officials confirmed the Alpha variant is prevalent throughout the United States, and the Beta variant was also identified here. Both strains have also shown to be more contagious. While research is ongoing, vaccines appear to be effective against the variants evaluated and are highly recommended.
Per the Centers for Disease Control website, the COVID-19 vaccines teach the immune systems to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It takes about two weeks for the body to build protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
However, it is possible a person could still get the virus before or just after receiving the vaccination and still get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection. Full vaccination happens two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
“The more unvaccinated people, the greater the chance it has to spread and mutate into more contagious variants,” Brown said.
Visit cdc.gov for information related to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Editor’s Note: News Editor Rusty Bradshaw contributed to this story.