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Allen, Kelly get right to the point
Mark Lastinger
Herald editor Mark Lastinger receives a COVID-19 shot at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in June. - photo by Photo submitted

Former President Donald Trump couldn’t do it. Current President Joe Biden was unsuccessful, too.

It took the persuasive powers of Effingham County Board of Education Chairman Lamar Allen and LaMeisha Hunter Kelly, Effingham Health System’s executive director of Strategic Business Development and Government Relations, to get the job done. They were the ones who talked me into getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Allen is adept at delivering subtle humorous jabs. His opening remarks during a March board meeting weren’t the least bit funny, however, and they delivered blunt force trauma to my thought process. 

The meeting was his first one since December 2020.

“I apologize for not being here for the last two months but — let me tell y’all something — if you haven’t had a (COVID-19) shot, you’d better get it,” Allen said. “These people that don’t take the shot — they don’t have a clue what they are in for if they (contract the virus).”

Let’s get this straight. Allen, around 80, is one tough cookie. He survived a horrific car crash about a year before I joined the Herald in 2017. His injuries were so serious that he required a seven-hour operation.

I didn’t know Mr. Allen before the accident. The Mr. Allen I have known has always been a sturdy fellow who drags the chains up and down the field at Effingham County football games.

That’s why I was stunned by what COVID-19 did to him. He dropped 32 pounds during a 75-day hospital stay, spending much of that time on a ventilator.

“You may be lucky like my wife and just get a little fever or something but you may be like me and that’s not good,” said Allen, who still struggles to breathe occasionally in the wake of his ordeal.

Allen finished with this parting shot (pun intended).

“I don’t understand not taking the shot,” he said. “Anyway, that’s not my call.”

At the time of Allen’s admonition, COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 539,000 Americans. That number is 608,000 today and it is beginning to increase rapidly.

Prior to Allen’s emotional return to the board, I had no intention of getting vaccinated. He changed my mind, though. I scheduled a shot at my grocery store a few days later.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel the appointment because of a conflict involving another medical situation and I remained unprotected from the virus until a chance encounter with Kelly weeks later.

Kelly was assisting with Effingham Health System’s first mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Guyton. She is a member of the church, which features a large population of older adults. Pastor Lon Harden said his flock has at least nine nonagenarians.

After learning what Kelly and company were up to, I asked her if she thought it would be a good idea if I wrote a story about it. She thought so and we discussed vaccination rates in Effingham County and Georgia, which lag compared to the rest of the nation.

“The hospital is providing the vaccine and so we are just trying to increase efforts to provide the vaccine,” she said. “Our idea is to take it to the community.”

Eventually, Kelly stopped talking about the community at large and turned to my vaccination status. The next thing I knew I was sitting in a chair with a needle in my arm getting “The Fauci Ouchy,” as my son comically calls it.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV but I believe it’s a good idea for everyone to consider getting vaccinated, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise. I am hopeful the nation can avoid another large spike of deaths and an economic shutdown.

I haven’t had a single second thought about getting the shot. It just seemed like the prudent thing to do, especially after talking to a couple people I trust.