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People who can't get COVID-19 vaccine under medical guidance encourage compassion, understanding

Pfizer Vaccine
Posted at 2:53 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 18:23:09-04

ELYRIA, Ohio — The COVID-19 vaccines have laid a path back to life as we knew it before the pandemic.

But for those who can’t get the vaccine because of health conditions or under the advice of a doctor, like Chris Frederick of Elyria, that path is a little more uncertain.

When Frederick’s age group for the COVID-19 vaccine opened up, he didn’t hesitate to make an appointment. His wife is a nurse and has already been vaccinated.

“My stance is based on the fact that we're a medical family. And so I go that way in my thinking,” Frederick said.

But just a day before he was set to get the shot back in April, he got a call from his doctor telling him to hold off.

Frederick had been experiencing shortness of breath, leg swelling, and other symptoms in the months leading up to his appointment. He said knew once he couldn’t work out anymore comfortably, that something was wrong, so he sought medical help.

“We were waiting for some test results and some other procedures. And so he says, 'Well, let's see what's going on here first,'” Frederick said.

Those test results came back last week, revealing Frederick has COPD.

His doctor wants him to continue holding off from getting the vaccine for now while they do more tests.

“I trust my doctor. And if he says to hold off, I believe there's a reason for it,” Frederick said.

There are others out there like Frederick who are following their doctor’s advice for a temporary pause on getting the vaccine or having to skip it altogether for other medical reasons, like allergies.

But with the push to get as many people vaccinated as possible, sometimes people aren’t as understanding of the various reasons why others aren’t getting the shot.

“Each of us individually have picked our path and picked our way of coping, it becomes really easy to get judgmental of other people for not making the same decisions,” said Dr. Patrick Runnels, the Chief Medical Officer of Population and Behavioral Health and the vice-chair of psychiatry at University Hospitals. “So if I choose a more relaxed way of doing things, I get upset at the people in an uncertain situation who are choosing to be more conscious. If I'm more cautious, I'm getting upset with the people who are maybe making decisions that are a little more relaxed.”

Runnels said those feelings are caused by the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, like changing how we do everyday tasks and the constant shift of safety regulations.

He said having an open mind is the best way to overcome those emotions.

“Finding a way to have compassion as opposed to contempt is a really important skill to learn,” Runnels said. “And finding room to be compassionate individually doesn't mean you have to give up your ideas about what the public should be doing. But finding a way to be compassionate and then finding a way to ‘where is the common ground?’ So, doing your best not to be contentious when people come from different places. Easy to say. Hard to do.”

Frederick said he hasn’t personally experienced any criticism from not getting the vaccine.

“I don't tend to have that conversation,” Frederick said. “I am a big believer in the privacy rules and so forth for individuals and health care patients. And I think that it's important for us as a free society, the United States as a free country, to not have to start asking questions of people like that.”

He’s encouraging people to have an open mind when someone says they’re not vaccinated.

“I would stress to those folks that, you know, just because people aren’t telling you what's going on, give them the benefit of the doubt,” Frederick said. “We're not all out here making a decision to just disregard the mandate or disregard what the CDC is saying. Some of us have legitimate reasons for not doing that.”

As for his own vaccination status, Frederick said he’s still in a holding pattern until more tests are done and he gets the all-clear from his doctor.

“Being that they don't see a problem with having COPD and getting the vaccination, I don't think that I'll face too many roadblocks there. I think they really just wanted to hold off and make sure they knew what they were talking about with me first, because there might be something out there that mimics what I'm going through that would cause a problem with the vaccine. As it turns out, that's not going to be the case, so we'll probably march forward,” Frederick said.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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