CMO’s Message after COVID-19 Infects His Family: Vaccines Work

Rodney McCaskill, M.D., chief medical officer at Johnston Health in Smithfield, North Carolina, part of UNC Health Care, is speaking out on local news channels after he and several family members became ill with COVID-19 in late December 2021. His message: Vaccines work.

McCaskill had avoided getting COVID-19 for nearly two years, even while in close contact with infected patients. But the omicron variant currently circulating is highly contagious.

In an interview with a Raleigh, N.C.-based CBS 17 news reporter, McCaskill described how COVID-19 infected him and his family during the holidays. McCaskill experienced mild symptoms — dry throat and a little achiness — and thought it was a cold, but a COVID-19 test was positive. One of his sons, who had been vaccinated but not yet received a booster shot, had two or three days of fever, chills and fatigue.

Another son, whom was not vaccinated although McCaskill had encouraged him to do so, had the most severe symptoms. “He had a pretty bad case … high fevers, almost bedridden for three or four days and a bad cough,” said the Johnston Health CMO. His youngest children had fairly high fevers for a few days, but everyone is now fully recovered.

“Definitely can see a big difference between the vaccinated family members versus the unvaccinated,” he said.

McCaskill added: “Many people think if you get a vaccine, you’re not going to get the illness at all. But that’s not really how it works. The promise for this vaccine is that the majority of people won’t end up in the hospital. It’s not that you won’t get symptoms at all.”

Johnston Health offers a variety of resources on its website, including the latest information and FAQs on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. The UNC Health website also links to community resources and an email and social media toolkit designed for community and organization leaders so they can share “credible vaccine information” on their social media platforms and communication channels “to combat vaccine myths and ensure accurate information is available.”