As one old citizen of Alabama, I am deeply concerned about the future of our state as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on what I have heard, it is possible that soon the surging Delta variant virus will claim the lives of many of our neighbors and friends. However, the number of deaths could be greatly reduced if more of our citizens will get vaccinated.

But here’s the problem: many of our fellow Americans have chosen not to get vaccinated. Only 56% of Americans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. While that number is troubling for our nation, what is happening in Alabama is embarrassing. Only 33% of Alabama citizens are fully vaccinated, and only 41% have received one dose of the vaccine.

By now you may be thinking, “Walter, you need to stick to devotional writing; nobody is looking to you for medical advice.” That is true and for that reason, I have hesitated to write about the virus. But it will be worth being criticized if I can persuade a few people to get vaccinated.

I do have personal experience with the COVID-19 virus. It was a contributing cause of my wife’s death last December. At the end of November, Dean and I both tested positive for the virus. Since she was in the hospital, Dean was quarantined for two weeks. After this isolation, she was sent home and died five days later. Two other terminal illnesses contributed to her death.

When I tested positive for COVID-19, I was worried. For months I had been reading reports on the virus published by prominent Montgomery physician, Dr. David Thrasher. My friend Jere Beasley had strongly endorsed Dr. Thrasher’s counsel about COVID-19. So I called the good doctor who, without hesitation, advised me to let him give me the Monoclonal Antibody infusion. This I did, though it was not an easy decision.

I was fearful that the virus might kill me and there were no guarantees that the infusion would protect me from the virus. Dr. Thrasher warned me that the infusion might have serious side effects but he also shared that none of his patients who had received the infusion had been hospitalized. I had no side effects from the infusion. After waiting the prescribed 90 days, I got the two Moderna shots and became fully vaccinated. It has given me peace of mind to know that I am now 94% less likely to be hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus. However, the primary reason for getting fully vaccinated is not to get peace of mind but to help our nation overcome this deadly virus.

Unfortunately, many people do not believe this. Ignorance about the virus has influenced many people to not get vaccinated. To get at the truth, I decided to interview Dr. Thrasher, a recognized authority on Covid-19, and let him answer pertinent questions. Here are my questions and his answers:

Question: Is it your opinion that by getting vaccinated, our fellow Alabama citizens will likely save the lives of other Alabamians?

Dr. Thrasher: Yes, vaccines will unequivocally save lives.  

Question: Does a person who has had COVID-19 and survived need to get vaccinated?

Dr. Thrasher: If you have had covid you need to be vaccinated. Vaccine elicits better immune response than the virus. If you have had COVID and get vaccinated, you have the most robust immune response known. I have now treated 12 folks who have been infected twice and one died.

Question: Are fully vaccinated people at risk for getting the Delta variant virus?

Dr. Thrasher: Fully vaccinated people have a 35% chance of getting the Delta virus but the vaccines prevent most of them from becoming seriously ill or dying. If you have any symptoms, even if vaccinated, get tested ASAP! We have better treatments now — Regeneron infusion — but it only works if used very early — less than 10 days of symptoms. Many doctors are not familiar with the reinfection risk with Delta. If you go to Urgent Care, don’t take steroids in first seven days of symptoms and get tested before going home with prescriptions such as Prednisone, Medrol dose pack, Decadron or receiving a steroid shot. If positive for the virus, contact a doctor with COVID knowledge but always ask for the infusion to see if you qualify. 90% of Alabamians now qualify under new requirements.

Question: What advice would you give a 30-year-old man who says, “The virus is killing mostly older people; all I need to do is avoid crowds and wear a mask at times.”

Dr. Thrasher: That was true — until the Delta virus appeared. Delta is hitting people ages 30-40 very hard. We have several that age now on ventilators who will likely die.

Question: Would you agree that no matter your age, getting vaccinated is one way to love your neighbor?

Dr. Thrasher: Absolutely! 

Question: Is the threat of the Delta virus so great that it’s important for everyone to speak up and encourage others to get vaccinated?

Dr. Thrasher: Yes! For sure! And by encouraging people to get vaccinated, I believe you are doing God’s work and saving lives and souls!

I thank Dr. Thrasher for his response and assure him, as I have before, that I am praying for him and his staff as they stand in the gap for all of us during this prolonged pandemic.

Now, my dear Alabama brothers and sisters, if you are not fully vaccinated, please heed this sincere plea — get vaccinated this week as a gift of love to your friends, family and fellow citizens. Thank you!