Debra Flowers had custom T-shirts made announcing her proud stance on COVID-19 vaccination and is hoping to get more supporters on board. " The shirt gets a lot of positive response," she said.

Debra Flowers just wants to help the world smile again. She hopes a cheery, tie-dye T-shirt announcing her vaccinated status moves the needle.

“I mean, it’s tie-dye. How can you not smile at a shirt that has everyone’s favorite color on it,” Flowers said.

Flowers’ father was a lifer in the U.S. Navy and vaccinations were a required part of growing up in a military family. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Flowers did her best to shelter herself against infection and never had any doubt she would be vaccinated when the time came.

“The shirt gets a lot of positive response, especially from some of the younger people who live in my apartment complex,” she said. Flowers gifted one of the shirts to a student as a way to reward a decision she sees as a positive. Some others turn their nose up when they spot her shirt, but Flowers remains undeterred.

When inspiration struck, Flowers was thinking not only of her father’s military career, but also her grandmothers.

“One of them was a quilter and the other was a nurse. The tie-dye felt inspired by the colors one grandmother worked with and being vaccinated felt like I was pulling from the other,” she said.

Flowers had hoped to get local first responders – firefighters especially – to take part in her campaign, but even that turned out to be too political. She even reached out to the Oregon National Guard given their significant role in distributing the vaccine, but the answer was still no.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m still hopeful about finding someplace else to help me spread the message,” she said.

At the end of that day, she’s proud of her decision to be vaccinated and mainly wants to help move the community as a whole onto a less divisive space and time.

“I try to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, but I don’t know how something medical became political,” Flowers said.