In early September, from a hospital room at the St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Scott County Commissioner Dave Beer watched his son’s wedding ceremony over a Facetime call.

Beer, who hadn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, spent four days in the hospital due to complications of the virus, including pneumonia.

In an interview Friday, Beer said he doesn’t regret his decision to not be vaccinated and he’s unsure when, or if, he’ll receive the vaccine in the coming months.

“I don’t want to go back to the hospital or worse, so there’s definitely a tension” he said, describing himself as vaccine-hesitant. “It’s a personal decision and it’s a wrestling match.”

Beer said he considered getting vaccinated sometime before the winter months, but it ranked low on his summer to-do list. Then, in August, he began feeling unwell with a cough and cold-like symptoms, which lingered, and worsened, in the days before his son’s wedding.

On Friday, Sept. 3, the day before the wedding, Beer went to the emergency room in search of a quick-fix. He thought he maybe needed IV fluids to kick dehydration and get back on his feet.

“At that point, I was 100% sure it was not the ‘rona,” Beer said. “But it was.”

At St. Francis, Beer learned he’d developed low blood oxygen levels and pneumonia — both are serious and potentially life-threatening complications of COVID-19.

“I went in with the scarlet letter,” he said. “I was unvaxxed.”

Beer, a Prior Lake resident, is among the minority of vaccine-eligible adults who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Scott County, over 81% of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The county’s overall vaccination rate, around 72% for all eligible residents, is higher than the state average.

However, in being unvaccinated, Beer represents the majority of local residents who’ve been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the months since vaccines became widely available.

According to data from Scott County Public Health, 70% of county residents who were hospitalized for COVID-19 in September were unvaccinated.

Beer, who represents portions of Prior Lake and Shakopee on the Scott County Board of Commissioners, said he’s leaning towards being vaccinated down the road, but opposes vaccine mandates.

“Doctors and people need to be free to make those decisions outside of the medical mob,” he said, adding his personal opposition to vaccine mandates ties to his religious faith.

Looking back, Beer praises the care he received while at St. Francis, describing his nurses as “upbeat,” “cheery” and “joy-filled.”

“They carried out their job with such joy in their hearts, it was remarkable,” he said.

In a statement, a spokesperson with Allina Health, the co-owner of St. Francis, said the health care system continues to focus on educating patients, employees and communities on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As a health care provider, preventing illness is part of our mission and we believe the vaccine is the best tool we have to address the pandemic and protect our patients, employees and communities, especially those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID and those too young to be eligible for vaccination,” the statement read.