With the full FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, many across the country are asking questions. Will this be a reason for more employers and schools to begin mandating vaccination? What sort of impact will FDA approval have on vaccination rates in a time hospital rooms are scarce? There’s an urgency many feel for this approval to make a difference.
“Dad says this was our ventriloquist act, and I was just his dummy,” laughed Jennifer Henderson, showing an old picture of her sitting next to her dad. “He's so handsome, even with that weird mustache!”
There are certain sounds that remind Henderson so much of her dad, Bob Henderson. Those sounds include a summer day in that hometown of Wardell, Missouri. Nothing reminds her of her dad quite like the sound of a Dr. Pepper being poured.
“Dr. Pepper's a huge thing in our family,” she smiled. “Dad’s played music my whole life. I got to go out on stage and sing with him since I was a baby. There’s nobody greater, like, he is my hero.”
Now grown up, Henderson’s song “Honeycomb Blues” even has her dad on harmonica and vocals. Music has taken the two to stages all over Missouri and Tennessee.
“It’s awesome,” said Henderson. “No one inspires me like he does.
“I’ve had COVID, but I didn’t get it like dad got it. The new variant is a whole other monster.”
Because Bob Henderson’s local hospital in Missouri was too full, he was moved to another hospital miles away in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
“The whole time dad’s been in the hospital, I bring him a Dr. Pepper every day,” Henderson said. “He asked me to tell them he was ready to be put on a ventilator. The one thing I asked them was to give him a drink of Dr. Pepper before.”
She said her dad was not vaccinated because he wanted to wait and see how the vaccine affected others his age. She hopes the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine makes a crucial difference to others who are hesitant.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, just a lot of uncertainty,” said Patrick Harlan of Maury Regional Medical Center in Tennessee.
The hospital is now promoting mobile vaccination clinics emphasizing the FDA approval of Pfizer.
“I think it’s very important to state that,” said Harlan. “A lot of the objections we’ve heard is that it wasn’t FDA approved.”
This community is like many across the country with about half their population vaccinated.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey from earlier this summer, 37% of unvaccinated people believe the COVID vaccine is not safe, and 53% believe it’s too new. In the same survey, 31% said FDA approval would mean they would be more likely to get vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated his belief it could mean another 20% of the unvaccinated getting the shot.
Henderson misses sharing a stage with her dad.
“Anytime we get to play music together, it’s pretty special,” she said.
Three days after this interview with Henderson, her dad died.
She told us, with so many still unvaccinated and in hospitals, she’s a woman with a purpose to deliver this message.
“Get your shot,” she said. “It’s easy. It’s so easy to avoid being where I’m at. I will continue to stand on my soapbox and preach about how important it is."