This past week, my husband, Nathan, and I received our first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots. We’ll return in early April for our second shot. While visiting with Julie Ferry of Nelson-Griggs Public Health District in McVille, N.D., she said: “People need to get vaccinated for themselves, for their families but also for their community. If we don’t vaccinate enough in our communities to create herd immunity, COVID-19 will still get a foothold. So, we need to think beyond ourselves and think of our community, and those most at risk.”

If you want to stop reading now, first go back and read Ferry's quote again and let it sink in. We all can do our part, beyond ourselves, and right now, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when you're able is a part of what our communities need.

While I’m not an expert, I want to share my desire to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and my experience. If you have medical questions, ask your primary care doctor if the COVID-19 vaccine is right for you and please don't base your decision to vaccinate or not based on gossip or what you read on your cousin's Facebook page. Talk to your doctor.

In a year when I’ve questioned God, the vaccine is an answer to prayers — my prayers and millions of others across the globe. While your opinion might be different, you can’t steal the joy I felt after I received my first COVID-19 vaccine.

To read more of Katie Pinke's The Pinke Post columns, click here.

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I listened to a Biblical lesson this past Sunday on joy. The pastor referenced the analogy that JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself. As a Christian, I believe science and technology can and does answer prayers. I proudly signed up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for others, as well as myself. As a healthy woman in my 40s with no underlying health conditions, I freely chose to receive the vaccine. If you disagree, check yourself and your reasons. It’s your decision. If you’re offended by my reasons, that’s on you, not me.

Katie Pinke on Main St. in McVille, N.D. where she and her husband, Nathan received their first COVID-19 vaccine shots on Mar. 9, 2021. Photo by Nathan Pinke.
Katie Pinke on Main St. in McVille, N.D. where she and her husband, Nathan received their first COVID-19 vaccine shots on Mar. 9, 2021. Photo by Nathan Pinke.
Rather than being against all things, I’ve learned to stand for something. I stand for and with science. I choose to live life vaccinated from COVID-19 and any other preventable diseases. I celebrate with joy.

Our home state of North Dakota is aggressively rolling out COVID-19 vaccines. Nathan and I are both classified as essentials workers but did not receive the vaccination based on our classifications. We put our names on several waiting lists for area public health districts and rural health clinics. We agreed to grab the first one that called with an appointment. Nelson-Griggs received extra doses and called their waitlists, which included our names. Additionally, Nelson-Griggs shares on social media when they have extra doses, which is helpful.

On Saturday, March 6, Ferry called us, and we made an appointment for the following Tuesday. As a side note, Ferry was supposed to retire ahead of the pandemic but decided to postpone it and continue in her 39th year of rural public health nursing. Nelson and Griggs counties are near my home area but any North Dakota resident, anyone who works in North Dakota or anyone who receives primary care in North Dakota is eligible to go anywhere in North Dakota to receive vaccinations.

McVille, N.D., population 375, in Nelson County, North Dakota is home to Nelson-Griggs Public Health District.
McVille, N.D., population 375, in Nelson County, North Dakota is home to Nelson-Griggs Public Health District.
If you’re willing to travel, I recommend calling a few different rural public health districts and clinics to add your name to their wait lists. Once you’ve received your vaccine, call the other location waitlists and have them remove your name to be respectful of their time and free up a spot that could be filled by someone else.

In my brief visit to McVille, I saw the intense planning, logistics and organizational skills required to rollout vaccines in a rural area. Ferry’s husband greeted us on the street and asked: “Are you here for vaccinations? C’mon on in!” Combined, Nelson and Griggs counties number 5,300 people. This week alone, Ferry said she and co-worker Debby Anderson, who came out of retirement to work during the pandemic, would give 400 scheduled vaccines.

Nelson-Griggs Public Health in McVille, N.D. opened their COVID-19 vaccine waiting list to anyone over age 18 years old. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
Nelson-Griggs Public Health in McVille, N.D. opened their COVID-19 vaccine waiting list to anyone over age 18 years old. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
I’m proud to be a rural North Dakotan who has received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Make the call to your health clinic, to your public health district or schedule online where available. The best resource I found in North Dakota is health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator. Check your state's public health website for vaccine locators.

When I was given my vaccination card, I said, “I’m going to frame this for my grandchildren someday.” For now, I’ll keep it close to document my vaccination. But on the other side of COVID-19 and this global health pandemic that has gripped our world in tragic ways, I hope to proudly share with my future grandchildren how we came through it, together. And I hope on the other side of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, public health servants like Julie and Debby do enjoy peaceful years of well-earned retirement.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.