The potential for those lasting effects is what troubles Washington University medical school professor Ann Marie Dale. She said the physical nature of construction jobs makes workers particularly vulnerable to respiratory distress, blood clotting, nervous system damage and other signs of “long COVID,” which can affect patients for weeks or months after initial symptoms pass.
Bielicke has shared his story with anyone who will listen. But he doubts it has made a difference. Workers have told him that they don’t think they need the vaccine or that they don’t believe COVID is real, he said.
“I’ve been biting my tongue so much it should be bitten off by now,” Bielicke said. “It’s not about me. It’s everybody surrounding me in my life, my community, my workplace and the people they go home to. If we don’t protect them from all of this, we’re going to lose everyone.”
There have been some efforts to organize vaccination events for workers.
Bielicke said the Laborers vaccinated 229 people at the union’s office in Sunset Hills after offering $100 to every member who got vaccinated. Al Bond, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, said about 1,200 members were vaccinated at a recent event at the union’s hall on Hampton Avenue in St. Louis.
“Anybody that wants a vaccine does not have a hard time getting it nowadays,” Bond said.