If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, you probably have heard about Covid-19 and more recently, the Covid-19 vaccine. If you tune in to any news station or even Instagram, you are likely overwhelmed with vaccine news—the miraculous speed it was produced, the issues with distributions, and concerns about possible side effects. It's been almost a year since Covid hit, and I am sure I can speak for all of us: we are tired of wearing masks and dream of the day we have the freedom to eat lunch in Malone cafeteria with more than 4 to a table and walk up the staircase in any direction we choose. Right now, our best chance for this is to get the Covid vaccine when available to us and to create herd immunity. In light of the recent disheartening milestone of over 500,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 and Covid’s global devastating impact as well, the vaccination remains the single most important thing to getting us back to normal.
Yet, while achieving herd immunity through vaccines is imperative to normalcy, many are skeptical about taking the vaccine even once it is available to them. According to USAFacts released in January , “45% of adults aren’t certain they will get fully vaccinated.” Additionally, A New York Times poll shows that only 32% percent of Black Americans and only 52% of Hispaniscs are willing to take the vaccine. This is worrisome considering studies have shown that Black and Latino americans are being hit 5 times harder by Covid-19 than white americans. However, while African Americans are the most likely to benefit from this vaccine, they have been shown to have the most distrust for the vaccine according to polls done by the Pew Research center.
Some of this mistrust is due to current as well as past harms that happened to minority groups. However, this distrust will take time and cannot be fixed immediately. Some of this distrust in the safety and validity of vaccines stems from past mortifying experiments performed on minority groups. One practice at the start of the last century, for example, was to sterilize minority women without their consent and do syphilis testing on unknowing patients resulting in deep seeded distrust towards doctors and the health care system within minority communities. Yet, even today, the refusal to get vaccines is a complex issue. Even in recent times, many people refuse to get the flu shot, a vaccine that has been researched and has an excellent track record of safety for decades. Recent racial and political turmoil happening in our country right now has only added to distrust in American leadership and has caused deep divisions between communities and even within families.
As we begin 2021, almost a full year since the Covid-19 crisis was declared a pandemic, we as students, teachers, and members of our community must work to educate ourselves and others on the vaccine. While we cannot forget the past, we must do our part, so the future is not like the past.
With every new vaccine, there will be mistrust and concerns over the drug, whether it is safe enough to implement a distribution plan. However I believe that self education is the key to changing this mentality. If we begin by educating yourself about vaccines, we will be able to change the stubborn mindset of those around us. If a stranger walked up and told me to do something I would probably say no. However, If my mother or my sister explained why I should do something, I would most likely listen and take action. We can be the change that helps educate others. We can be the factor that changes our 80 year-old grandma's ideas about that vaccine and helps save her life because she finally decided to get it. This can go further by encouraging our community leaders or people with great influence to do the same. If they begin to educate themselves about the vaccine, they have the power to educate and help change many people's mindsets who otherwise would not. For example, Kamala Harris recently posted a video of herself getting the vaccine. Imagine if someone similarly influential to our generation, like Lebron posted a video of getting the vaccine, he could easily change the minds of thousands of people. Yet, it all starts with ourselves, we must educate ourselves. Once we have done that, we can begin to educate our families, and soon the ripple effect will happen.
Last year laid bare the frank disparities of our nation racially and socioeconomically. There is no quick solution to these complex issues, but we can be a small part of the solution of creating vaccination equality within our own families, our own communities, and our own 100 different zip codes in Atlanta.
URLS on Covid vaccines:
DPH also has a link that lets you search for vaccination sites in your community: https://dph.georgia.gov/locations/covid-vaccination-site
Kimberly Manning MD’s excellent summary of how the mRNA COVID vaccines work:https://www.facebook.com/grady.doc.9/videos/2775192406034159
From the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/index.html
From Fulton County:https://fultoncountyga.gov/covidvaccine