‘I’m not immune to COVID,’ Oklahoma nurse changes from vaccine skeptic to advocate


OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Since Monday, an additional 102 Oklahomans have been admitted to hospitals. The new numbers are causing an Oklahoma E.R. nurse to make a plea.

“I have seen in my own patient care – I don’t have the data, I don’t have any statistics – but the patients that I’ve cared for that are my age – and sometimes even younger – just as healthy as I am – sometimes healthier than I am – are coming in, and we’ve had that we’ve lost and we’ve had some that COVID has literally made them fight for their life,” said INTEGRIS Grove Nurse Grace Zieba.

Zieba was initially skeptical of the vaccine. She is now urging all Oklahomans who haven’t gotten the shot to do so.

“When the vaccination came out initially, I was very skeptical,” said Zieba. “First off, it’s not FDA approved, we really didn’t have any real data on how it was gonna affect people and how it was gonna affect the disease process and long-term effects. These things are frightening to me as a nurse and I really was not comfortable getting the vaccination.”

Now, Zieba’s mind has changed. After seeing healthy young people in the ICU, she said she knew she had a part to play.

“There’s a young man in particular that recently was ill,” said Zieba. “He was very well known in this community. Everybody loves him. He has a young family. He’s younger than I am. He’s in his 30s.”

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Grace Zieba

Zieba said she’s now deciding to get vaccinated. She has realized she’s not excluded from contracting the virus.

“I’m not immune. As a 40-year-old woman with no comorbidities,” said Zieba. “I’m not immune to COVID, and I’m not ready for it to give me the fight of my life.”

Zieba said it’s better late than never, especially with a new variant on the horizon.

“We know we are in an uptick, it is serious. It’s very stressful right now in our hospitals, so we do respectfully ask all citizens to receive a vaccination so we can put a lid on this,” said Lawanna Halstead, R.N. with the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

And it isn’t just the Delta variant that has health officials alarmed.

“Just as we were trying to deal with Delta, we are not seeing a Gamma variant start to emerge,” said Mary Clarke, M.D., President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

Health officials say the Gamma variant is in Oklahoma, and 19 cases have been reported. Clarke said it’s more infectious and easier to spread than the Delta variant.

“We do now have a possibility that the current vaccines that we have may not be good enough to recognize the spike protein of the Gamma variant,” said Clarke. “It is very early, so it’s not necessarily gloom and doom, of course, science takes a little bit of hindsight and we need to research this to see what those numbers are going to be for the vaccines that we have.”

Health officials said it’s too early to determine if there will be a Gamma variant surge, but there’s more to come as we go forward in the next two to six weeks.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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