By Frances “Toni” Draper
AFRO Publisher and CEO
Unless you’ve been in a deep Rip Van Winkle sleep over the past few months, I do not need to tell you that there is a great divide, especially in the Black community, over the efficacy and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many opposed to getting the vaccination offer such reasons as: “It was developed too fast,” “It makes you sterile,” “I had COVID already,” “The government’s just trying to control you,” “I’m young and in great shape, so I don’t need it,” “The long-term side effects are unknown,” “My __________ took the vaccine, and still got COVID;” “It’s my body and my business. Nobody can tell me what to do,” “How do I know what’s really in it?” “God’s got me, so I’ll be fine as long as I have faith the size of a mustard seed,” and the list goes on and on, fueled at times by conspiracy theorists on social media.
While I’m not going to use this space to attempt to answer any of these commonly held objections, (there are plenty of credible sources that do that), the fact of the matter Is that 4,666,804 people have died from the COVID-19 outbreak as of Sept. 15 and there have been nearly 42 million cases in the United States and 664,000 deaths. According to data recently released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), child COVID-19 cases have increased at an alarming rate, with more than 5 million children having tested positive. We can debate the accuracy of the data; We can even debate the qualifications and motives of those reporting the data, but in the past week personal friends and family have shared stories about their own unvaccinated families that I find compelling. Below are three true stories.
Story #1: Dad and mom are in their early 50s. Dad, an organ transplant recipient, is fully vaccinated. Neither Mom nor their three children ages 15, 16 and 17 are vaccinated. Mom is adamant about why she will not let anything “go” into her body, and the teens parrot her reason and follow her lead. “Afterall,” she reasons, “I don’t really know what’s in that vaccine, and I don’t think the children should get vaccinated either.” Dad tries to reason with her, but to no avail. Mom contracts COVID; Dad contracts COVID, as do all the children. Dad has flu-like symptoms for a day or two and is on his way to recovery. Mom and children are still suffering with what they say is the worst thing they’ve ever experienced. “If there’s a silver lining,” Dad says, “They all want to get vaccinated, when this is over.”
Story #2: Dad and Mom are in their late 20s. They have four children: nine, seven, five and three months old. Both Mom and Dad are Anti-Vaxxers, refusing the vaccine at all costs. “We don’t need it. We’re not even 30 yet.” Their vigorous stance against the vaccine was the subject of a big family blowout last month, leading to harsh words between them and their siblings, during what would have otherwise been a joyous family reunion. Feelings were hurt, with one sibling vowing to never speak to the other one again. Then the unthinkable happened. The parents who vowed to never be vaccinated and all four children, including the infant, tested positive for COVID-19. They are recovering at home, afraid to even let their family members know, even though they may have exposed them to the virus too. While I’m praying for their complete healing, I can only imagine what will happen when everyone else in the family finds out they may have been exposed, but no one said anything!
Story #3: Then there’s this Facebook post by my dear first cousin, the Rev. Dr. Marie Braxton:
Good day Family and Friends,
I am sharing this urgent message with you in order that you might be informed and on guard. I went to the hospital Friday morning to have a surgical procedure on my back. Protocol required me to have a COVID test, despite the fact that I’m fully vaccinated and had the booster shot. Surprisingly, it came back positive which explains why I’ve been feeling so bad over the past week. Thanks to the quick response and persistence of my doctors, within six hours I was given the monoclonal antibodies transfusion. I was told that I’m past the infection stage, but I am still not feeling well and can’t taste or smell. COVID is no hoax. Please encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated and not to delay any longer. The nurse who attended to me said that most of the seriously ill COVID patients are under the age of 45.
Stay safe. Stay well.
This issue reflects that in spite of our expectation to be free of COVID-19 and the pandemic it caused, we find ourselves persevering through its resurgence with Greek-named variants wielding greater power and a penchant for our young people. Once again we call out misinformation and replace it with science and the continued need for the much-longed-for herd immunity that promises to restore our peace and balance. Much appreciation for the entire AFRO team that keeps making it happen with excellence and precision.
Frances “Toni” Draper
AFRO Publisher and CEO