Who I Am
I am a Black woman who holds a Doctorate in Education. I am a Black woman living in a gentrified neighborhood. I am a Black woman who is a wife, mother, daughter, and aunt. I am a Black woman who is concerned about my life and the healthiness of my body. I am a Black woman who is very afraid of contracting COVID-19. What calms my fear is in knowing that vaccines have been developed that could save my life, the life of my family, and others.
The Black America COVID-Reality
All around the nation and at this moment in time, there is nothing that is more important than getting a handle and control of COVID-19. The reality is that this virus has taken the lives of more than 300,000 Americans and brought the entire world to a near standstill. What is also important and a critical reality is that for Black America, the stakes are higher than for anyone else. COVID-19 disproportionately infects and kills marginalized communities. Yes, this virus is hurting everyone, but not equally. The Black population is at the front lines of vulnerability.
The Black America Facts
Nationwide, Black people are dying at nearly twice the rate of white people, according to the race and ethnicity data provided by the COVID Tracking Project. Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, yet Black people account for 18% of COVID deaths. A recent analysis, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, highlighted the higher risks that COVID-19 poses for communities of color due to underlying health, social, and economic disparities as well as COVID-linked racial health disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exploited existing disparities in healthcare. In my experience disparities in healthcare limits the overall gains in the quality of care received.
When I’ve gone to the emergency room, the first two questions asked of me were if I had insurance and if my insurance was employer-provided, meaning not Medicaid. The health coverage or lack thereof could be the difference between having a private room and being in a room with three other patients. It’s the difference between the type of care that is covered and not covered. It’s the difference between life and death.
Black America and Their Distrust of the COVID Vaccine
Multiple cornerstones have shaped the history of vaccines and the success of diseases such as Pneumonia, Mumps, Measles, the Flu, etc. I’m so thankful for receiving these vaccines as a child and continue to receive boosters and other vaccines now as an adult. Am I fearful? Yes! Am I ready to die or lose a family member to COVID when there’s help? No way! On a side-note, although it’s an inherited disorder, there’s no cure for Sickle Cell disease that is more common in Black American as compared to other ethnicities. Hmmm. Happy to say, there is good news! Vaccines for COVID are available! However, there’s skepticism, fear and distrust in Black communities about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and its impact on the Black people. Some may ask why people are so afraid of the vaccine when this is something that can save lives.
Black people’s fears and distrust are real and justifiable. Greatly due to the 400 years of how Black people were used, abused and mistreated. Black Americans’ distrust is because of the fear that history has imprinted, the unethical experiments on Black men and women, the dismissed, misdiagnosed, and forced sterilization of people of color. These atrocities of history are what bring the people of color to the point of distrust of the COVID vaccine. I understand, really I do, but sometimes, the future is more important than the past.
Taking the Vaccine
This Black woman is thinking about her future health. I do have underlying medical issues that I have trusted all my doctors to treat and I am not going to give up on trusting the gift of medical knowledge given to them. For me, I believe in the greater good. I agree with Monica Fuller Johnson a Black woman who works at the Charlotte-based Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, who said, “For me, the benefits outweigh the risks,” she said. “If there are disparities in health care and the health care that we [Black people] receive, the best way for me to prevent needing it is to prevent COVID-19.”
Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris went to a Black community in D.C. for her covid-19-vaccine. Harris said she deliberately chose the city’s only public hospital, United Medical Center, because it serves neighborhoods in the city’s Southeast quadrant that are predominantly Black, a population that polls show is distrustful of the vaccine.
Building Trust in the Black Communities
Trust needs to be built or rebuilt in the Black communities when it comes to disparities such as how our health is treated. Folakemi Odedina, a Black pharmaceutical scientist, health disparities expert, and principal investigator at the University of Florida’s CaRE2 Health Equity discussed what is needed to help Black people establish trust among their own communities. Odedina suggested medical leaders of color should lead by example and publicize their own willingness to take the vaccine. She further stated, “When it’s my turn to take it, I’m happy to take it in public.”
I know that is only one part, but it’s the part being discussed here. With Black scientists such as Kizzmekia Corbett being praised as the key scientist behind the COVID-19 vaccine, I believe there is hope. I heard it said that the known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine. I trust this to be so.
The Choice is Yours
It’s important that the trusted entities and organizations within our communities to provide us with accurate and tailored information regarding this virus and any other virus. The onus is also on us to conduct our own research and speak to our doctors so we can make a more informed decision. Some people have called what has been done to the Black population genocide. But if Black people choose not to save themselves, it that not suicide? I choose self-preservation! My decision has been made! When it’s my turn, I will take the vaccine!