I-TEAM: Local leader shifts vaccine views after battling COVID

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A local city councilman says it took having COVID and surviving to change his mind about the vaccine. He sat down with the I-Team to share his reservations before his personal fight with the disease, and in his own words, why he says now he’s a changed man.

“Look I went through it. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I will as soon as I’m available go get my vaccine,” said Eric Presnell.

Presnell is a business owner and serves on North Augusta City Council. At 44 and healthy, he considered himself low risk for COVID.

“When it first came out, it seemed like to me it came out at the most inopportune time, right before an election and it seemed like it was being politicized by both parties. So my first thought was oh, this is about trying to garner votes one way or another way,” he said.

As the pandemic raged on from 2020 into 2021 his viewpoint about the virus didn’t change.

“Then they started pushing the vaccines, you need to get vaccinated and I’m going here is some more government overreach is what it felt like to me. I thought I’m not going to do it. I don’t get sick,” he said.

This July he got the COVID combo. The highly contagious and dangerous delta variant – that turned into COVID pneumonia.

“I mean I was almost in tears I felt so bad,” he said.

Presnell’s wife, an ER nurse at the VA, also got COVID with him. The difference? She was vaccinated so he saw firsthand the disease severity on the unvaccinated.

“She felt bad for about two days and she said well, I’m quarantined for two weeks what do I do know? So she started reorganizing the pantry and doing stuff around the house and I’m just laying there,” he said.

Presnell says it took him nearly four weeks to recover.

The emotional toll of surviving was also heavy seeing someone he knew and Aiken Public Safety Officer, Kevin Simmons die of COVID at 43 and then North Augusta Public Safety Officer Dustin Beasley die at just 30 years old.

“I have changed, I do feel like yes, we need to get vaccinated,” he said.

He’s still anti-shutdowns, and anti-mandates but he’s no longer anti-vaccine.

“When y’all air this and people on the fence hear it my decision has nothing to do with what I’m being fed on social media or being shamed upon this is something I went through and it is not good and that you really think about getting it,” he said.

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