'Why I'm Getting Vaccinated:' A Nursing Home Aide Who Witnessed 'Horrifying' Early Days of the Virus

PEOPLE's "Why I'm Getting Vaccinated" campaign hopes to fight vaccine misinformation and encourage people to get the shot as part of the battle against COVID-19. Noteworthy names and everyday people alike will share their powerful, personal reasons for getting vaccinated.

Adelina Ramos is a certified nurse's aide who works at a nursing home in Rhode Island
Adelina Ramos. Photo: Courtesy Adelina Ramos

Adelina Ramos, 35, works as an aide in a nursing home in Greenville, Rhode Island. Below is her story on her reason for getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as told to PEOPLE.

I'm so relieved that our residents got vaccines, because it was horrible here. When COVID first hit, we lost over 20 residents between the end of April and Memorial Day — and there are only 160 beds. And a CNA [certified nurse's aide] died; I think she was the first nursing home staff member who died in Rhode Island.

There were days that we were crying and we were scared. A lot of our patients were very sick at the same time and they were dying, it was horrifying. Residents are still coming down with COVID. Their families are pretty happy they can get the vaccine, because at least they have some protection. I feel hopeful.

By February, I will have had both of my doses. But about half of my co-workers haven't gotten the vaccine yet, even with all we went through. They are hesitant. They're like, "We don't want to be the first ones to take it, we don't want to be the guinea pigs ... We want to see whoever goes first, and see what happens to them and then we'll go from there."

I watched a lot of news and read a lot of reports on the vaccine. On CNN, I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta explaining, like what is the vaccine? I was going to get the shot either way because I don't want to go through what we already went through again.

What we went through last year was like hell. I take care of patients with Alzheimer's. In the spring I had 26 patients and they all looked like they were dying. I constantly had to change the oxygen about every 15 minutes, and they are in bed and they cannot move, they can't eat, they can't drink.

On the floor that I work, three or four patients went to the hospital and they didn't make it back. When the patients died, we had to put them in bags. That is the hardest part; the funeral homes usually did it, but at the time they didn't have PPE and couldn't come in to do it.

Even now, it's sad, because we are like family to them, but we have to wear a full PPE and they can't tell who we are with the mask and goggles on. And we are short staffed and the patients, some of them are scared and they're afraid, they want you to hold their hand, because you are the only ones that they see. Their family still can't come in and sit with them. But at the same time, there are a lot of them that are very sick. So we have to rush to get to the other ones.

Adelina Ramos is a certified nurse's aide who works at a nursing home in Rhode Island
Adelina Ramos. Courtesy Adelina Ramos

After Mother's Day, I couldn't smell anything. When the National Guard came in, they tested us and I found out I was positive. I was asymptomatic but it was very stressful mentally and physically.

I didn't want to be the reason my family got sick. I had to tell my son to stay away from me and I couldn't hug him. I was walking around the house with a mask on and the gloves on. Every time I touched something I disinfected it because I didn't want to get him and my husband sick. My in-laws live upstairs from us, they are 67 and have high blood pressure and are borderline diabetic and I care for them too.

A lot of my co-workers were very, very sick. I was like, 'I feel lucky that that didn't happen to me.' I wanted to take the shot because I don't know if I will be lucky the second time if I get it.

Some of my co-workers who didn't want to take the vaccine have asked me about it and how I felt. I got a sore arm and I was tired for three days, and then I got my energy back. A lot of them now are encouraged to take it, they are like, "Okay, you guys are still alive. Nothing that's serious happened to you guys so okay, we're ready."

I want to thank everybody I work with. We all went through a lot through the pandemic. And I would encourage everybody to get the vaccine because of what we went through, and to be there for their family and loved ones. I feel hopeful now.

Before being released to the public, vaccine-makers went through large, lengthy clinical trials to ensure that their product is completely safe. On Sept. 8, nine of the leading vaccine makers — including Pfizer and Moderna — signed a pledge vowing to follow "high ethical standards" and not rush a vaccine into production before it is proven to work.

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