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May 15, 2021

Ask Us: Have city, county elected officials received COVID-19 vaccine?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

By Ben Stansell and Natalie Anderson

news@salisburypost.com

A reader asked whether city and county elected officials have been received a COVID-19 vaccine. When she was asked that question, Rowan County Commissioner Judy Klusman was eager to share her experience.

Klusman, 64, was one of several thousand people who participated in a trial program for the Pfizer vaccine in the fall. As part of the trial, Klusman received her first dose in late August and second in September.

“When I’m talking to people who tend to laugh about it, I just say, ‘Hey, I was their guinea pig,” Klusman said. “Between that and I don’t have three eyes and three arms, that usually starts the conversation.”

Klusman said she has multiple family members who are research scientists and made her feel comfortable participating in the trial. Although the vaccine was brought about quickly, Klusman said she wasn’t worried about its safety because researchers developed it using years of prior research on a vaccine for SARS, another coronavirus.

Klusman said she got the vaccine because she wanted to protect herself, but also because she’s a civil servant and wanted to set an example for others.

Klusman, along with Commissioner Craig Pierce, are the only county commissioners who told the Post that they’ve received the vaccine.

Pierce said he had a severe reaction after receiving his first dose of the vaccine over a week ago. Having tested positive COVID-19 before and after the reaction, Pierce said he might not get the second shot.

Vice Chair Jim Greene said he intends to get his first dose soon. Greene said he has no qualms about taking the vaccine and encourages others to do so, once they’ve consulted with their doctor and feel comfortable.

“I am in favor of people deciding for themselves what is best for them,” Greene said. “I think that people are adults and have to make decisions about their health all of the time and I think this is one of those situations where people should make that decision for themselves and do what’s right for them. I think it’s right for folks to get the shot.”

Greene said Rowan Countians should look to their doctors for advice on vaccines, not the county commissioners.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said he hasn’t gotten the shot himself because he doesn’t want to supersede others who might need it more.

“My stance has been, listen, while we’ve got folks with heart disease and cancer and other pre-existing conditions and now we have kids out of school starting age 16 are going to be able to get it so they can get back in school full time so I have not taken it yet,” Edds said. “Like I said, the old saying is leaders eat last.”

Edds said he is not against the vaccine and encourages those who are at risk and who want to get the vaccine to do so.

Commissioner Caskey could not be reached for comment.

Salisbury City Council

To date, nearly all members of the city council have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Council member David Post was the first — receiving the Pfizer vaccination on Jan. 23 during mass vaccination event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He received his second dose 21 days later on Feb. 13.

Post said it’s unfortunate the vaccination and virus have become points of political differences.

“Governments have all kinds of laws that limit personal freedom to protect others: speed limits, smoking bans, childhood vaccinations,” Post said. “Stormwater protections protect property owners, FDA protects food and drugs, FDIC protects bank accounts. Most laws are designed to keep everyone safe.”

Mayor Karen Alexander said she received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA gymnasium via Novant Health on Jan. 28, and the second dose on Feb. 12.

“I chose to get vaccinated to speed the recovery of our economy and the safety and health of my family as well as the community as a whole,” Alexander told the Post. “I encourage all who want to see our community fully open and sooner to join me in getting vaccinated.”

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said she received the second dose of the Moderna vaccine on April 14, adding that she and her husband “leaned into our faith and science.” She cited the danger of not only the COVID-19 virus, but also its variants compared to other viruses.

Council member Tamara Sheffield told the Post on April 14 that she had been fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, adding that it was her obligation to “uphold a social contract with our citizens, family and friends.”

“I still believe in following the 3 W’s until we are at a better place as a society and controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Sheffield said.

Council member Brian Miller told the Post he has not yet been vaccinated, but intends to do so.

“I am not in a high-risk category, so I have waited to allow others who are to become vaccinated first,” Miller said.

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