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Some Vaccine Recipients Anticipate A ‘Whole New World’ After Immunization

David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio health reporter Sarah Fentem (at right) joined Friday's talk show.

The other day, St. Louis on the Air received an idea from local listener Debbi Heffern, a cancer patient and hospital employee who recently received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It might be fun to do a piece on what people will do differently as they reach that acquired immunity,” Heffern wrote.

She’s stayed closer to home than most people have during the pandemic.

“I haven’t been to Dierbergs or Schnucks since March,” Heffern said. “The rest of you have gotten used to the changes there gradually, but to me it’ll be a whole new world.”

Last week, on the night before she received the second dose, Heffern “felt like a kid feels the night before the last day of school — that impending freedom.”

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Heffern and other community members shared how their lives are beginning to change and what they’re looking forward to the most, now that they’ve received the vaccine.

Lonna Ellsworth works for Mercy St. Louis, and she just got her second vaccine dose earlier this week. She periodically serves COVID-19 patients and was eager to get vaccinated. She was surprised by how much relief she felt shortly after her first dose.

“All of a sudden I just had this wash over me, like, ‘I am now safer. Everything I do is safer,’” Ellsworth said. “And at the beginning it didn’t feel like it would change much of what I actually did … but I felt so much safer.”

Jenny Rehrig, another local nurse, received her first dose Dec. 28, and she’ll receive her second dose next week. After she reaches acquired immunity, she foresees some joyful activities eventually becoming possible again.

“I have a couple of friends that have actually had babies during this time, and I haven’t been able to see them or see their children. … I’m very hopeful for the things that are to come,” she said.

Peter Hill, a resident of Cooper House — a facility that provides housing and care for St. Louisans living with HIV — said he is looking forward to late January, when his community gets vaccinated. Hill said he has no qualms about getting it, even though he’s curious about side effects.

“We’re so excited about it,” Hill said of himself and his fellow residents. “With me having ultra confidence in the staff [at Cooper House], and most of them telling us, saying it would be best [to get the shot], that’s what I’m really relying on. Because through it all, the staff here has been great.”

He added that, as a “party animal,” one of the things he’s looking forward to post-immunity is being able to be outside past 10 p.m. He’s also excited to spend time with family and friends, take long walks again and go to the library.

During the segment, which included reflections from callers, St. Louis Public Radio health reporter Sarah Fentem fielded questions about the vaccine rollout and provided the latest updates on eligibility and related topics she’s been covering this week.

Have you received the COVID-19 vaccine? What was your experience like, and how do you see your life changing as a result of immunity in the days and months ahead? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the AirFacebook group, and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.