Rosa Herrera: Get the Vaccine for Your Family!


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Rosa Herrera knows how difficult the battle with COVID-19 can be.

Two of her daughters were really sick with COVID-19 in October 2020 and were hospitalized during their infections. Herrera herself got sick, too, but had a mild case.

“It was really scary. I couldn’t see them and since both of them were hospitalized at the same time, I was going crazy,” Herrera said.

Herrera was initially afraid to get a vaccine. She was worried that it was produced too quickly, and that because she didn’t know what was in the ingredients, that it could’ve been microchips or something that would harm her family again─things she’d read on Facebook.

But, after learning that the vaccine is safe, she ultimately decided to get a vaccine. She’s glad she did.

“I’m able to see my grandkids and my kids here. It gives you more freedom,” Herrera said.

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When COVID Hits Home

Herrera and her family come from Mexico, where many of her siblings still live. Now she and her daughters live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When she and her daughters got sick from COVID-19 last fall, it was hard for Herrera because she couldn’t visit them in the hospital. One of her daughters had to be intubated and was on a ventilator for 10 days.

Her daughters have mostly recovered, but the hospitalization brought lasting health effects as well as new health discoveries for them.

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“They still have struggles with it. The one that got intubated, she still has problems with her lungs. So she still has to do some type of exercises, and then the diabetes. We didn’t know that she had diabetes, and then all of a sudden, her numbers were extremely high, like in the 500 range. So that was pretty scary. And so she’s still having that issue with diabetes and her lungs, so now she has to inject herself with insulin twice a day,” Herrera said.

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Fears about the COVID-19 Vaccine

Herrera didn’t initially want the vaccine when it was offered to her.

She’s a teacher and co-founder of a charter school in Richfield, Minnesota called Partnership Academy, so she was eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021 when the state provided vaccine doses to the school’s essential workers.

Rosa Change of Heart Vaccine

But Herrera turned down the offer, unsure about the effects the vaccine might have on her.

“I was thinking that the vaccine wasn’t something reliable because it was not enough time to really make sure that they will check in to make sure that the vaccine was going to be effective. I was kind of scared, thinking about, well, I don’t know what they’re going to inject into our bodies, or how our bodies are going to react and stuff like that,” Herrera said.

Her main worry was the ingredients of the vaccines and that she might get sick again.

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Check out this fact sheet about Rosa in English or Spanish!

“I was kind of worried. I’m like, what if they inject us with something that instead of helping is going to make it worse?” Herrera said.

Many of her Mexican family and friends were scared about the ingredients of the vaccines and felt like they didn’t know what was in them.

She heard her coworkers, friends, and family talking about their fears in-person and on Facebook, which made her not want to get the vaccine, either.

“I’m Mexican, and a lot of my people were scared about it. A lot of people started talking about, ‘They’re going to inject this microchip, and they’re going to do this and do that.’ And I’m like, Oh my goodness. So everybody was kind of concerned so I was just saying, ‘Now, I’m not going to do that, just because I don’t know what that is. And I said, No, no, I’m not going to do it,’” Herrera said.

But she ended up changing her mind when her 80-year-old mother got a vaccine.

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Mother Knows Best

Herrera was set against getting the vaccine, and so was her mother.

She didn’t even want to discuss it with her.

“The opportunity came to have vaccines ready for people 80 years old or older. So I told my mom and my mom said, ‘Definitely not!’ She was really upset, said ‘Don’t even talk about it!’ I’m like, Oh my goodness. So I kind of didn’t say anything after that,” Herrera said.

Rosa Vaccine Change of Heart

But that changed when her mother went for a regular checkup with her doctor.

“Her doctor told her she was pretty healthy. And then my mom says, ‘Oh yeah, I want to go to Mexico,’ because half of us siblings live here, half in Mexico. And so the doctor says, ‘Well, you’re not going to be able to travel if you don’t get the vaccine.’ So then my mom called me like, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m fine. I’m really good. The doctor said I’m great. But he gave me this number to maybe have an appointment to get my vaccine,” Herrera said.

She was shocked her mother had abruptly changed her mind, but she helped her schedule the appointment.

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Getting the Vaccine Herself

Herrera began thinking more about the vaccine. She watched a webinar organized by local officials in Mexico City that gave information about vaccines to Latinos, which helped answer some of her questions and made her feel better that others were hesitant at first, too.

Then, more and more people in Herrera’s life were getting vaccinated, including her daughters who were severely sick last fall.

They got the Moderna vaccines, and one of her sons got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Herrera started to reconsider her position on the vaccine.

“I was like, I don’t want to be like left out. I want to make sure that I’m healthy. Because I don’t want to get sick again, and then bring the sickness to my daughters again,” Herrera said.

When her friend and community activist Ruth Evangelista asked if she wanted a vaccine, Herrera accepted. Evangelista pointed her to a vaccine clinic that was distributing Pfizer doses to older Latinos.

She got her first Pfizer dose on Feb. 7, 2021. She got the second dose three weeks later. Afterward, she felt fine, besides a little arm soreness and tiredness for a couple of days. Her elderly mother didn’t feel many side effects, either.

“I felt OK, my arm hurt. I think that was pretty expected, to have a sore arm for a couple of days. The first day I came home, and it was no big deal. Yeah, my arm hurt, but that was it. The second day, the same way. But on that third day, I did get pretty tired. But yeah, it wasn’t bad at all,” Herrera said.

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For Herrera, being vaccinated means having more family time.

“I have a big family. I have a lot of grandchildren. I have seven children total myself. And then I have 18 grandkids and 6 great grandkids. So I’m able to see more my grandkids and my kids here,” Herrera said.

Even though she’s vaccinated, Herrera still wants to be careful. She’ll keep wearing her mask and being careful to wash her hands. She’s also glad to continue working from home.

“You have to adapt and accommodate to what’s going on in your vicinity, or with your family or in the world,” Herrera said.

She hopes that others who are hesitant will get a vaccine so they can be around family and community.

“They should do it, but if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family, because everybody’s doing it. We are really lucky and really blessed to have the vaccines available to everybody. We started kind of, slow but we are moving really fast vaccinating everybody,” Herrera said.

Now she herself helps people schedule appointments to get vaccinated.

“I tell them, ‘I already did it, you can do it! Nothing is going to happen to you. Nothing happened to me,” Herrera said. “But then at the same time, I let them know that everybody reacts differently because, we’re not all the same. But I think it’ll be better for them to get the vaccine to protect themselves, but mainly for their family members.”

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This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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