Getting her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine was a bit emotional for Anita Ahalt.
As the needle injected the lifesaving vaccine into her arm, Ahalt couldn’t help but think of two beloved friends who have died from the highly contagious virus. Louis Sarrel of New Jersey died in April three days after his 58th birthday, and Joyce Fisher, the mother of a childhood friend in Maryland, died as a result of COVID-19 last year.
With memories of her friends on her mind, Ahalt used this moment getting her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Tidelands Health regional vaccination site in Murrells Inlet to honor them. She proudly posed for photos to post on social media displaying a sign with their names perfectly penned within a yellow heart that declares #thisjabsforyou.
Ahalt hopes the photo, taken with her husband who also received the vaccine, will not only honor those special people but also inspire others to get the lifesaving vaccine that wasn’t available in time to save Sarrel and Fisher.
“The hope is people will see us doing it and agree to get the vaccine,” Ahalt said. “We need to do our part. This maybe will get some information out – if we can do it, you can do it, too.”
Looking ahead to the future
Like other high-risk seniors, the Ahalts have tried to follow all recommended measures to stay safe from the virus over the past year. While honoring their friends’ memories when getting the shot, they also celebrated taking the important step toward getting back to the things they miss the most, especially seeing their grandchildren.
“We got it today, and I’m so glad. I feel a sense of relief we have come this far,” Ahalt, 73, said Wednesday. “We’ve been very fortunate to stay well through all of this.”
Sarrel’s widow, Marla Sarrel, started the #thisjabsforyou effort aiming to honor her husband and motivate others to get the vaccine. She hopes that with every story shared while getting the vaccine, it will help those who may be hesitant about getting the shot to learn the facts and feel more comfortable rolling up their sleeves.
“Everybody has been affected by COVID in one way or another,” said Marla Sarrel, a teacher in New Jersey. “We want to get awareness out there. This is the only way we are going to get back to some normalcy.”
Quick to sign up
Through Feb. 14, Tidelands Health hasdadministered more than 19,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 13,000 doses to seniors ages 70 and older and more than 5,000 doses to health care workers, first responders and others in the region eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a.
Ahalt didn’t hesitate to sign up to receive the vaccine the first day her age group was eligible. She says it’s the right thing to do for herself, those around her and the community, and she is confident in the science behind the vaccine. She didn’t experience any symptoms after receiving the first dose other than a sore arm where the shot was administered.
“But it’s an easy thing to deal with to honor these people and to think of them,” Ahalt said.