As the cheer “Take the shot!” echoed around them, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe putted a golf ball, council members Keith Sydnor and Brencis Smith shot baskets, and council member Michael Leszcz tried to sink a pool ball.
All looked pretty satisfied until council President Valerie Nicholas shouted, ”Not that shot! The COVID-19 shot!”
In a new public service announcement released by the city last week, elected city officials and staff encourage residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine and provide useful information in a humorous 2-minute sketch.
“As corny as it sounds on paper, it really worked out well,” said Audrey Barnes, Laurel’s director of communications, of the video. “We had good participation.”
The ad was created as an effort to reach the various communities in Laurel, including Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, that might hesitate about getting the vaccine, said Barnes, who had Laurel Health Officer Dr. Uzo Unegbu address those concerns in the video. Unegbu also is shown receiving both the first and second doses of the vaccine in the video.
“It is very, very important that everybody gets this vaccine,” Unegbu said. “A lot of people are misinformed. That it will cause infertility or different disorders. That is not true. There is a lot of negativity about it.”
Unegbu invited Laurel TV crews to record him receiving the vaccine to show that he got it and “I’m still here,” he said.
“I had a sore arm and was a little bit tired,” Unegbu said of the side effects he experienced after his shots. “It varies with different people. Some of my patients felt really sick. It should not last long, but people should be ready.”
Prince George’s County is currently in Phase 1C of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Individuals 65 and older are now eligible to receive the vaccine as are those in health and human services who were not previously covered in Phase 1A. Essential workers, including food and agriculture workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers (including transportation for seniors and persons with disabilities) and postal service workers are also eligible.
A concern for many senior Laurel residents is the lack of a vaccine site in Laurel or in Northern Prince George’s County, said City Council member Carl DeWalt. At the mayor and City Council meeting on Feb. 8, DeWalt said the closest vaccine site was at a Safeway in Greenbelt.
“Our seniors deserve a lot better,” DeWalt said. “The thing about seniors ... they want these places to be readily accessible, they want them to be close, they want a familiarity with the center, and they want to be with people they know. If it is anything less than that, they don’t want to go get that shot.”
Moe said that he has been talking with county officials about the need for a vaccine distribution site in Laurel.
“I am not happy there are no testing or vaccine sites” in Laurel, Moe said. “We are in discussions. We are very hopeful that within the next several weeks we see something here in Laurel.”
The Morning Sun
City staff are available to help residents who don’t have computers, or do and are confused, register for the vaccine, Moe said. City staff may also be able to assist with transportation issues, he said.
“We will do what we have to do to get people to the site,” Moe said. “Don’t wait. Get on the list.”
Residents should “be aggressive” and do research to see where and when they are eligible for a vaccine, and then make an appointment, Barnes said.
“The purpose of the [public service announcement] is so people are ready when they get the call for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Barnes said. “The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. It is our best hope for the end of the pandemic.”
Unegbu is hopeful that a vaccine location for Northern Prince George’s County becomes a reality soon.
“To go back to a normal life ... it all depends on how fast we can get vaccines in arms,” Unegbu said. “I will continuously work with Mayor Moe to insure we have a healthy community.”
To register for a shot in Prince George’s County, Laurel residents should go to princegeorgescountymd.gov/3730/COVID-19-Vaccination.