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River Valley APRN gets vaccine after caring for COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic

Mary Lunsford is an APRN who chose to get vaccinated after spending the last year caring for COVID-19 patients at the urgent care where she works.

BONANZA, Ark. — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, 5NEWS has highlighted the efforts of health care workers on the front lines. Because of that added risk, they were some of the first eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Mary Lunsford is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in the River Valley who’s seen first-hand the impact of COVID-19 on her patients. The 43-year-old lives with her husband and children in Bonanza, Arkansas. As an APRN at Baptist Health Urgent Care in Fort Smith, Lunsford has spent the past year facing COVID-19 head-on. 

“We were seeing probably 100+ patients there for a while at the peak of COVID last summer. And it was just all the COVID swabs, educating people on COVID. It really did lead to a lot of burnout and stress,” said Mary Lunsford. 

Her husband also works in health care as a pharmacist and owner of Prince Drug Store in Fort Smith. 

“We didn’t get to work from home or be quarantined like some other people were,” Lunsford said. 

Lunsford lost her Aunt Peggy to COVID-19 in early December 2020. So she got the Pfizer vaccine around the New Year, as soon as her husband received his first shipment. 

“I did have just a slight hesitancy at first. I was worried that it came out too soon,” Lunsford said. 

But after he explained the science behind the research and trials, Lunsford felt good about her decision. 

“If we want to beat this virus - I’ve never seen a virus like this, I’ve never seen a disease like COVID - so if we need to beat it and get rid of it, we have to have that vaccine,” Lunsford said. 

Being vaccinated has allowed her to feel more confident and safer, both at work and in her personal life. 

“If I’m around friends that I know are vaccinated, and I know there’s social distancing, I will take my mask off. But in a crowded area, I’m still wearing my mask out in public,” Lunsford said. 

She continues to care for patients, including those who don't believe the pandemic is real. 

“We still get those people who will tell us they think COVID’s a hoax,” Lunsford said 

She says all she can do is educate them about the virus. And her advice to anyone considering getting a vaccine: 

“It is safe, and it is effective. It’s one of the most effective vaccines we have out there on the market for any of the diseases. So I would say, get it. It’s the only way we’re going to beat this disease,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford’s husband got the vaccine as well, 90 days after recovering from COVID-19 right after Christmas. They also have a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. She says they will both get vaccinated as soon as the CDC says it's okay for their age group.  

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