Worried woman receives a COVID vaccine

Anna’s Story: Overcoming Anxiety to Get Vaccinated Against COVID

Anna received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a southeast Michigan Meijer store at the end of June. For Anna especially, this was a big deal due to her severe anxiety and ADHD, in addition to other health and mobility issues. Which meant when she was in a private room at Meijer about to get her shot, she was doing her best to keep a panic attack at bay.   

Thanks to a dedicated Meijer pharmacist and Chip Werner, community relations director with Disability Network Oakland & Macomb (DNOM), who were both in the room with Anna, they kept her distracted and at ease.  

As the pharmacist prepared to give Anna the vaccine, Anna said the alphabet backwards – so quickly that the pharmacist wasn’t ready and had to have her say it again. The tactic worked, and the shot went into her arm without an event.  

“The emotional aspect is way worse (than the shot),” Anna said. “You can be in your head, flipping out, and the actual thing is great.”  

Anna said her mind was the biggest barrier to getting a shot in the first place, as she generally has a sense of distrust and cynicism about things.  

“Even if you are the ‘trusting’ sort, you can be in the situation where you have no social support, again for one reason or another, which requires you to have to reach out to others (individuals or organizations) to get things done,” Anna said. “Barriers can be physical, emotional, mental, or social, and everything needs to fit together like a puzzle to work out well, and that’s what seems to have happened with my first COVID shot; I have no complaints about it at all.” 

Anna was able to get a COVID vaccine thanks to the partnership of several organizations working together in a grassroots effort. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is working with Meijer Pharmacy in a regionally focused collaborative to remove barriers to COVID-19 vaccine for homebound individuals and people with disabilities. For some individuals, the barriers are visible; for others, the barriers are hidden.    

Disability Network Oakland & Macomb is one of the partner organizations helping to identify individuals and connect them to the vaccine.  

“We still have trust issues that must be resolved in a caring and relatable manner. We are also combating technology, transportation and homebound barriers,” said Werner, describing the issues Disability Network Oakland & Macomb helps its clients overcome. “It is critical that we mobilize grassroots campaigns that reach folks through the means they are most comfortable. This includes phone calls, technology support, transportation assistance and conveniently located vaccine clinics.” 

In Anna’s case, the road to getting a vaccine started with a phone call. Anna had been paying attention to all the news regarding the vaccine for months but felt hesitant to get one herself. When Werner of DNOM called her, they quickly became friends. A friendly Meijer pharmacist helped Anna make her appointment. And then Werner worked with Anna to find a transportation company that made her feel comfortable.  

“We strive to create barrier-free vaccine appointments in private settings that ultimately reduce sensory stimulation and allow the consumer to feel safe,” Werner said.  

It worked for Anna, who is looking forward to “not staying away from everybody” after she gets her second shot in July.  

Blue Cross is reaching out to members still in need of a COVID-19 vaccine and is helping to fund some related costs for partner agencies.   

Individuals and caregivers can schedule COVID-19 vaccinations at a Meijer Pharmacy by texting “HEALTH” to 75049. There will be a specified code for people with disabilities requiring possible accommodations within vaccination environments. Individuals can also visit https://clinic.meijer.com/register/CL2030to start the vaccine scheduling process.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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