OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Opelika’s mayor credited his m-RNA COVID-19 vaccine with keeping him relatively symptom-free after he got sick with the virus. The east Alabama mayor is sharing his experience, hoping to clear up some confusion regarding the vaccines. While East Alabama Health says it’s possible to have breakthrough infections, the vaccine offers strong protection against severe illness that lands you in the hospital, on a ventilator, or end of life.

“I am convinced the reason my symptoms have been so mild is because I was vaccinated back in January,” said Mayor Gary Fuller.

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller is quarantining this week after testing positive for COVID-19 last Tuesday, July 27th. Mayor Fuller said he had some congestion, but he’s ready to go back to work as soon as his quarantine is over. On top of his vaccine, Fuller also received the COVID-19 infusion at EAMC.

“People like me who are positive can stay home, our symptoms are mild, and it’s because of the vaccine. I do hope folks will reconsider and get vaccinated. I hope you will think about it and consider it for your family. In the hospital today, the folks by and large are people who have not been vaccinated. That should tell you something,” said Fuller.

Dr. Fuller says he trusts the East Alabama Health experts to know what’s best for him, recalling an example shared with him by EAMC’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Michael Roberts.

“It’s like my friend Dr. Roberts said, if I were in a terrible car crash today, I would go to EAMC, and I would expect them to save my bacon, and I know they would do everything possible to sustain me. Now, the same folks we trust with our lives are telling us we should get vaccinated, and I trust those guys and gals,” said Fuller.

The CDC says fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can still spread the virus. The CDC is recommending indoor masking to provide a barrier against spreading respiratory droplets. Opelika City Schools, Auburn City Schools, Auburn University are now requiring masks indoors as the Delta surge continues.

“None of us like those masks, but our schools are trying to do the best they can and have in-person school, so based on local health care professionals are telling them, children and staff need to wear masks,” said Mayor Fuller.

On top of public health, Mayor Fuller is concerned about the local economy and fall football if cases continue to surge and vaccination rates lag. Alabama remains the last in the country in terms of vaccinations and is among the top in the nation for a surge in new cases.

“I want our folks to be healthy, and just behind that is our local economy. Now many of our merchants and hotels took a kick in the butt last fall because of COVID. We have a chance to have a real football season at Auburn University, Opelika High School, and Auburn High School, and all of our local games, but I think some of that may be in danger. The way it’s going now, I am very concerned about what the future holds for our community,” said Mayor Fuller.

Mayor Gary Fuller is urging everyone to speak with their doctor or a trusted medical expert about vaccinations.

Below is a Call to Action letter written by EAMC’s Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, M.D.
The Time has Come: The Wait is Over

By Ricardo Maldonado, M.D.

There are a significant number of Americans who have not been vaccinated because they wanted to wait to have more information concerning the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Back in December, I had the fortune to receive the first vaccines available for COVID-19. For someone who has seen the horror of COVID-19 so close up, it was the light at the end of tunnel.

I have already witnessed too much death and pain from this virus. I wouldn’t wish dying from COVID-19 on my worst enemy. I would have never imagined that eight months after vaccines became available in the U.S., I would still have half of my ICU filled with patients fighting for their lives. There are two things in common among the vast majority of those patients who are severely ill with COVID-19: they are not vaccinated, and they truly never thought it would happen to them or their family member. Every one of these patients or their families who cared for them were misinformed.

It’s disheartening. Every Time I see these patients, I think to myself, they shouldn’t even be here to begin with. They could be home with their families now if they had been vaccinated.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic happened, life expectancy had doubled in the past 100 years. Medicine and science are responsible for that, including many lifesaving vaccines. For those who do not remember, there once was a disease called Polio. It caused meningitis in 1 out of 25 infected people and paralysis in 1 out of 200 cases. Polio was eradicated from the US in 1979 thanks to vaccines.

Smallpox, one of the most devastating viral infections known to humankind, that used to kill 30 percent of infected patients, was eradicated from the U.S. in 1949 thanks to vaccination. Vaccines are an important reason we live twice as long than a century ago. In the past year, the life expectancy has dropped to its lowest in the past 20 years due to COVID-19. However, we have safe vaccines for this infection.

Vaccine Safety
Like any other medication we take daily, there is a chance we could develop a rare side effect like an allergic reaction or an unusual side effect that typically happens shortly after taking a medication. Long-term side effects do not occur with vaccines. Vaccines are typically given in one or two shot doses and are designed not to stay in our body any longer than needed to generate immunity. Almost all adverse events would happen within a few weeks after a vaccine. The first patients who received the COVID-19 vaccines were volunteers from the clinical trials in July 2020.

COVID-19 vaccines: Track record
A total of 3.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given around the world already and 30 million doses are being given daily around the world. Over 390 million vaccine doses have been given in America and more than 161 million people are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are monitored under the most intensive vaccine safety monitoring in U.S. history and the results are astonishing: There is no other vaccine that has such a track record as the COVID-19 vaccines. We have more information already about these vaccines than most other vaccines. The m-RNA vaccines have a very rare complication called myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation). The risk of this adverse event is rare and the benefits of the vaccine by far outweigh the risks.

Delta variant is reshaping the pandemic
More than 85 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are due to the Delta variant. This variant is at least 50 percent more contagious and perhaps more serious than other variants we dealt with earlier in the pandemic. The good news is that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) still provide excellent protection against the Delta variant at nearly 90 percent.

The only significant adverse event from this type of vaccine is myocarditis, which is temporary inflammation of the heart. Myocarditis is a very rare event with only 1 to a few cases per million doses. Most of these patients recovered fully from this event. Your chances of getting heart inflammation due to the actual infection is actually higher than from the vaccine. Studies have shown that for men between 50 and 64 years of age, COVID-19 vaccinations prevent almost 2,000 hospitalizations, 500 ICU admissions and nearly 150 deaths per million doses. The benefit in older ages is even more notorious.

The Time has come, the wait is over
Choosing to not receive a vaccine that is this safe and effective, especially if you are older than 30 years of age, is gambling with your life or the lives of your loved ones.

If you or your loved ones are admitted to the hospital with COVID, I will do anything I can to save their lives. I have seen patients with COVID-19 every day for almost 18 months. When I meet them, I typically explain how this illness works and what are we going to do to try to save their lives. Nearly every single patient I see replies, ‘Doc, do whatever you need to do, so I can get better and go home.’ They trust their lives in our team’s hands. That applies to any sick person with any condition—they trust their physicians to save their lives when they are ill. It is these same doctors who will fight hard for your life who are asking you to get the vaccine, so we don t have to see you at the hospital.

Nowadays, when I ask people why they don’t get the COVID-19 vaccines, the most common response is, ‘I am not done with my research.’ The research has been done and the verdict is out. There is no need to wait and there is no time to wait.

If you trust us with your lives when you are ill, then I am asking you to trust us beforehand, and listen when we say that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and will save your life. If you have waited for more information about its safety, the data is out—90 percent of deaths from COVID-19 today are preventable with a very safe and effective vaccine. Please stop gambling with you and your families’ lives and go get vaccinated.

During this pandemic, COVID-19 has caused more fatalities than all types of cancer combined. With that in mind, let me ask this question: If there was a safe and effective vaccine available that would prevent you from dying of cancer, would you get it?