THE COVID-19 VACCINE: ICAN STAFF SHARE THEIR “WHY”

vaccine thumbnail v2

The pandemic has given us pause, fear and uncertainty, but as the vaccine rolls out, it also gives us opportunity, hope and choice. ICAN has had the privilege of being offered a chance to get the COVID vaccine, and our team went for it. We are an essential mental health provider for our community and as you know, mental health is one of the biggest needs, biggest worries, and biggest risks right now for children and families. Staff members also got it to protect themselves, clients, coworkers, loved ones and the community at large.

We are needed. ICAN is ready.

Some members of our staff have generously shared their “why” and their experience receiving the vaccine, in hopes that it will ease fears and help others decide for themselves if the vaccine is right for them and their families. Here are their stories:

Steve and Jeremy

Steven Bulger
CEO/Executive Director

My why for getting the COVID vaccine is quite simple- since March 13, 2020 we have been committed as an agency to ensuring the health and safety of everyone in the ICAN family. By getting vaccinated early and opening up vaccines to all ICAN staff and providers we in turn are protecting over 2,000 families in the Mohawk Valley: 1,600 families we serve, 200 staff, and 200 providers.  One person’s choice to be vaccinated may very well have been a life saving decision. With more than 50% of our agency vaccinated we are that much closer to our ultimate goal of being healthy and well. 

Jeremy Butler
Director of Community Initiatives

My Why? Simply put… "Connection." As human beings we have an innate need for connection. To people, to places, to our passions and purpose. It's probably the thing that many of us miss the most and while nothing is ever guaranteed, in my opinion, the vaccine offers us one of the best paths forward to be able to reconnect. With friends and loved ones who’ve been kept at a distance. To gratify our zeal for wanderlust and our thirst for adventure. And to our pursuit of the things that set our hearts and minds on fire! That's my why!

James Carrie Chris Bri

James Charles
Juvenile Justice Program Manager

On February 1, 2021, I received my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Mosaic Health in Utica.  I feel incredibly thankful that I was able to get the vaccine so quickly and to have protection from such a horrific virus that has impacted the lives of so many Americans and loved ones. I know that a large number of individuals plan on getting vaccinated whenever it becomes available for them to take however, I also realize there is a great deal of vaccine hesitancy from many who are worried about the possible short-term/long-term side effects. I hope that my experience provides comfort to even one person who is on the fence about getting the vaccine. We have been asked to provide our "why" for getting the vaccine. 

My "whys" are simple. I trust science and am constantly amazed by the progress that continues to be made on vaccines and therapies to treat the virus. I want the world to go back to some semblance of normalcy through herd immunity. I want to protect my family and loved ones. I want to be able to spend time with family, friends, co-workers and enjoy family gatherings, weddings, birthday parties and other special occasions. I want to go on vacations again with my wife and kids and travel to places we haven't been. I want to go back to work every day and I want my kids to return to school five days a week. I want to go back to enjoying events I always look forward to such as our agency golf tournament, our Kick Off for Kids events and our Holiday Party. 

My experience was a positive one. After receiving my first dose of the vaccine, my only symptoms were a sore arm at the injection spot that lasted a few days (no different that the flu shot). After receiving my 2nd dose, I have experienced a sore arm and some fatigue/lethargy. I have had no other symptoms. I hope that my experience provides some assurances in the safety of the vaccine. Here's to a better 2021.

Carrie E. Conte, LCSW
Community Initiatives Program Manager

It wasn’t difficult to find my “why”. I decided getting the vaccine was right for me and my family. My dad is immunocompromised and has been living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since 1994. He and my 93-year-old aunt have never needed my husband and I more than through this pandemic – for groceries, doctor appointments, and most importantly human connection. I think many of you have similar situations, family members you care for, that need you to be healthy so you can care for them. Since most of you can relate to that, let’s talk about why I chose to get the vaccine for you.

Did you know that there is something that is FREE that reduces your blood pressure, lowers stress hormones, and boosts your mood? No catch, no strings attached, no monthly subscription! It’s also contagious, so contagious in fact you can catch it through a Zoom meeting or from across a stadium! Lastly, if you bring this with you into a room full of people, you have the ability to light up an entire room! It’s real, and we all possess this superpower… I’m talking about a smile!

I want to be able to take my mask off and smile at people. Not smile just with my eyes, or dramatically change the tone of my voice because you can’t tell that I am smiling behind my mask. It’s no secret that social distancing and virtual learning has drastically altered people’s mental health for thousands of reasons. Isolation from family and friends, feeling unsafe, loss, major disruption in daily routines and norms, etc. 

In 2020, studies show between March and October for children age 5-11 we note a 24% increase in mental health related emergency-department visits, and a 31% increase for adolescents age 12-17.  These numbers are terrifying and show direct correlation as one of the many effects of our social distancing and living in this virtual world. A study from Great Britain found that a smile can feel as rewarding and stimulating to the brain as 2,000 bars of quality chocolate. 

Can you imagine what we are all going to feel like when we all ‘catch’ the smiles of other people again? Remember, it’s contagious and everyone reaps the benefits! Teachers, in-person, smiling at a student?  Sure, they might see that over a Zoom platform, then it’s gone again when school is in-person because we are all wearing masks. These inconsistencies are really hurting people. I want to smile at my dad when I see him, and I want to smile at the students I see in our school-based programs, and I want to smile at my aunt when she talks about driving her red convertible in the spring. 

I am writing this on February 9, 2021 and realize that since March 13, 2020, some people have gone 333 days without seeing a smile from someone else. Let’s flatten this curve, do our parts, so we can see the world smile again. 

**I pass no judgement for those who are currently undecided or elect not to get the vaccine. You do what is right for you and your family and I support your right to decide.**

Chris Lambe, CPA
Chief Financial Officer

In spite of risks and uncertainties, I did this for many reasons both personally and professionally, but it all began with family.  

I got vaccinated because I want my wife and son to be safer and more comfortable every time I leave the home.

I got vaccinated because I want my infant son to be able to see my parents and grandparents.

I got vaccinated because I want to be a safer and more confident presence in my daily job responsibilities.

I got vaccinated because I want to see my friends again.

I got vaccinated because I don't want to carry worry, suspicion and regret with me every day.  

I got vaccinated because I hoped it would help avoid spreading the virus to one additional person and avoid the pain and anguish that we have all experienced.

I got vaccinated because I wanted to do my part in returning to a new normal.

It was worth the risk and the side effects, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you consider doing the same.

Briana Anderson, LMSW
Community Based Therapist

I received my COVID-19 vaccine for so many reasons. I got it to protect myself, my loved ones, and my community, to help stop the spread of a deadly virus, and for the millions of people whose lives were lost in less than a year without the option of vaccinating against it. I got my vaccine in order to hug my loved ones again, to help allow for normal holiday festivities, and to gather in groups with my favorite people all under one roof. I vaccinated myself to go to concerts, to travel, to get back to living the lives we were all meant to live. I got it to help me from fearing average public places like malls and grocery stores, to bring us all a little closer to being able to smile at strangers again, for handshakes, and better first impressions. I got it in order to see my clients and provide therapy in person again, and to get back to doing the work that I love. I chose to get my COVID-19 vaccine to protect my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, clients, and myself because our lives are worth two little pokes and a few minor side effects.