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Co-workers at Integrated Behavioral Health show their proof-of-vaccination cards. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccination were Ritu Pahwa, from left, Michael Pham, Stephanie Suggs and Csilla Dragu. Smitha Raman is not pictured. CONTRIBUTED

James Clemens senior Michael Pham receives COVID-19 vaccination

MADISON – Michael Pham, an 18-year-old senior at James Clemens High School, documented his COVID-19 vaccination to offer his perspective to future recipients.

Pham works as a billing assistant at Integrated Behavioral Health in Madison. “We qualified under the Alabama ‘1a Subset,’ allowing outpatient workers to get the vaccine. My job doesn’t have direct patient contact but my co-workers throughout the building do (front office, nurses, psychiatrists),” he said.

At Madison County Health Department on Jan. 12, he and several coworkers received the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, authorized by FDA for emergency use. “You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself,” he said. Healthcare workers and individuals older than 75 were receiving the injections – with no wait.

After completing a brief questionnaire, he received a proof-of-vaccine card. “The shot itself hurt less than a flu shot. Madison County Health Department is doing a wonderful job with distancing and administering the shots,” Pham said.

During an hour after the injection, Pham experienced slight lightheadedness and dizziness. He couldn’t move his arm above a certain height due to muscle pain. “I got mood swings and fatigue. Some coworkers got slight headaches,” he said.

Side effects disappeared after one to two days. “I go back for my second dose on Feb. 12,” Pham said. “All signs are that vaccine is working.”

The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed Pham’s study habits. “I’m not feeling ‘senioritis’ … probably because I practically stayed home the entire year. The first semester, I was ‘virtual’ 100 percent and used Schoology to do my courses. I do like the virtual platform, which allowed me to do my work at night and has given me a better work/school life,” he said.

“With the in-person platform, I go to school for one class every day, compared to twice a week for hybrid. We have plexiglass dividers and masks; however, the person to my left is practically 1.5 feet away,” Pham said. “I do feel the hybrid schedule should be kept until the end of the semester.”

“Teachers with Madison City Schools go a long way to help us adjust to the new learning platform. It’s also their first time using the platform. They’re doing the best they can,” he said.

“If no one gets the vaccine, we can’t hope for the virus to magically go away. For those saying, ‘It’s a government conspiracy,’ … it really isn’t. I do care about my family, friends and coworkers so I decided to get the vaccine — not only for their sake but for the community,” Pham said.

“COVID-19 is not a simple flu. Yes, influenza kills but is nowhere as deadly and mutating as COVID-19,” he said. “There’s no government ‘chip’ with the vaccine. I respect each person’s decision upon the vaccine, but the only way to get rid of COVID-19 is to take the vaccine.”

Pham thanked Jeff Jennings, CEO of Integrated Behavioral Health, for coordinating his employees to receive the vaccine.

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