Health experts hoping Dion Dawkins' COVID battle will inspire more vaccinations

Posted at 6:07 PM, Aug 18, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — After a huge rush for vaccinations in the winter of last year, Dr. Nancy Nielsen with the Jacob's School of Medicine has seen a downward vaccination trend.

"(Vaccination rates) are going down that's for sure," Dr. Nielsen said, "and that is happening nationwide and happening here."

A large portion of that, in one grouping. Outside of the 12-15 age groups, those 16-34 have the lowest vaccination rate. The same age group is seeing some of the highest rates of infection in Erie County.

"People between 20 and 39, their rate of vaccination is just not as good," Dr. Nielsen said, "if you just look at the statistics in Erie County last week 40% of positive cases were in that age range."

According to the Erie County Department of Health, just below 60% of those between 16 and 34 are vaccinated.

Dr. Nielsen is hoping that the story of 27-year-old Buffalo Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins can help. On Tuesday, Dawkins announced that he was hospitalized for four days due to COVID-19. He was not fully vaccinated at the time.

"There were moments where I was like, I don't know if I'm going to make this," Dawkins said, "If there was a checklist, it was the shortness of breath, it was the cough, it was everything."

Dr. Nielsen is hoping that Dawkins' story shows those in their 20's that they are vulnerable. As she sees it, if an NFL lineman can become infecting, anyone can.

"The message is, if you're not vaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, this virus is going to find you," Dr. Nielsen said.