We talked with the first American to get the COVID-19 vaccine and she'll put you at ease
via Leapsmag / Twitter

While the arrival of multiple COVID-19 vaccines has made people feel hopeful about the future, many are still leery about getting the shot.

A recent poll by Pew Research found that "60% of Americans say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus if one were available today." That figure is 9% higher than when the same question was asked in September.

Four in ten people (39%) say "definitely or probably would not get a coronavirus vaccine" although half of them say they may change their mind after the vaccine is widely administered.


If you're feeling a little iffy about getting vaccinated it doesn't make you an anti-vaxxer. It's natural to be a little skeptical of something that was developed so rapidly. So, to ease your mind about getting vaccinated, our partners at Leapsmag spoke with Jennifer Haller, the first person in the U.S. to receive COVID-19 vaccine.

Jennifer is a mother of two from Seattle, Washington who was administered the vaccine back in March and, as you can tell by the video, she's happy and healthy nine months later.

Jennifer received the Moderna vaccine which requires two shots administered four weeks apart.

After receiving both, Jennifer says she felt just like she has after any other vaccination. "I've had a flu shot before, I've had other vaccinations before, this is just another one of those," she said. "Everything's going to be fine. And it was."

Jennifer didn't know she was going to be the first person to receive the vaccine. She put two and two together after reading an AP report the night before her vaccination saying the first vaccine was going to be administered the next morning. Her appointment was at 8 am.

"I'm like, oh gosh, that might actually be me," she said.

The only side effect she experienced from taking the vaccine was some soreness at the injection site after both doses. "Besides that, everything else felt very normal," she added. "I'm feeling great. everything feels perfectly normal and my life is just as normal as everyone else's is right now."

Jennifer says that after receiving both doses, tests showed the vaccine was effective in creating COVID-19 antibodies. She says the first eight recipients of the Moderna vaccine all developed antibodies at the same level or above someone who has recovered from the virus.

She believes she was the right person to go first because of her attitude.

"To be one of the first, I think it really requires somebody like me who's really positive, who expects good things to happen, and somebody who trusts science," she said.

For Jennifer, stepping up to be the first was about more than just protecting her health and that of others.

"I want to stay conscious of the privilege I have in life and I want to use it to help others," she said. "I'm very thankful that I have the opportunity to do that and I hope that it inspires others to consider the privilege they have in their lives and to look at ways they can use that as well to help."

Jennifer hopes that people approach this as a health issue, not a political one. "It is not a political statement," she said of getting vaccinated. "It's not political, it's about saving lives."

For those who have decided against getting the vaccine, Jennifer suggests they reconsider.

"Science is real. It's a fact. It works," she said.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Canva

Prior to European colonization of North America, millions of bison roamed the Great Plains. By the turn of the 20th century, those numbers had dropped to less than 1,000. The deliberate decimation of buffalo herds was a direct attack on the Native American people, who colonizers saw as an obstacle to their "Manifest Destiny," and who the U.S. government engaged in a systematic attempt to eliminate or force into docile submission.

For thousands of years, bison were a sacred, inseparable part of life for Indigenous tribes of the Great Plains, used for food, shelter, utensils, and clothing, in addition to spiritual and emotional well-being. Wiping out the bison population nearly wiped out the Native tribes they were connected to.

Though bison numbers have increased significantly thanks to conservation efforts, governments are still grappling with the ugly legacy, and some municipalities are taking steps to try to repair some of the damage done. As one example, the city of Denver, Colorado has taken the step of giving some of the city's bison population managed by Denver Parks and Recreation to Native American tribes engaged in bison conservation efforts.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less