Day after day, breaking news alerts from newscasts and online news resources highlight the distressing percentages of COVID-19 cases and deaths in America and across the globe. One of the hardest-hit groups affected by COVID-19 is essential workers, specifically those who work in healthcare, hotel, and foodservice. The Washington Post featured an article by Eugene Scott on the four reasons coronavirus is hitting Black communities so hard. The report states that black people hold many essential jobs as a top reason the virus affects African American communities disproportionately. Although vaccines are nearing approval, there remains resistance by African American’s. Polls and studies show that most Blacks grapple with the idea of taking the COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available, even if it is free. Could the vaccine be the remedy to the continued spread of this virus? The Chicago Defender spoke with a few essential workers, Chef Evelyn Shelton, a restaurant owner, a school administrator, a healthcare professional, and a law enforcement official, on their thoughts on the COVID-19 vaccine.
What are your views on the vaccine?
Chef: I would be the first one in line – sleeves up and arm out. I do understand the resistance. Minorities, African Americans, have not always fared well regarding certain services provided by the federal government. We have to get to the point where we are aware of what has happened in the past. We also must be equally aware of the benefits of certain services, like the COVID-19 vaccine. We all remember the government’s antics with the Tuskegee experiment. They did not provide Black people with the proper medications to combat syphilis. I understand why we are cautious. However, we need to remember that the vaccinations we have taken in the past prevented us from contracting other illnesses like smallpox and measles. So, I will take one for the team if it means I will eventually get my life back.
School Administrator: At this point, I am extremely leery of any COVID vaccine. Trustworthy and effective vaccines take years to develop and test. Science backs this up.
Health Care Professional: I believe there has been sufficient data behind the vaccine, which is why I am open to taking it. People should understand that they could not contract the virus from the vaccine. We have come such a long way in science and research, decades to get where we are.
Law Enforcement Official: I am speaking as a pastor and concerned citizen, not on behalf of the Chicago police department. At this point, I am not sure if I would take the vaccine. Researchers and scientists are still discovering new things about the virus and are unsure about the totality of what it entails. I think this is one of the reasons people are still apprehensive about being vaccinated. Besides, what if the vaccination interferes with those who already have underlying conditions? What if it causes something to go wrong with a pre-existing illness?
Do you believe the vaccine should be widely accepted by the public, especially in underserved communities?
School Administrator: No. People in underserved communities are intelligent too. They have the right to accept or refuse a vaccine as they see fit and according to their own personal opinions and needs. Some people to this day do not take the flu vaccine and have not gotten sick.
Health Care Professional: It does not matter if you are rich or poor. Everybody is susceptible to this virus. If more leaders, like Barack Obama, publicly affirmed the vaccination, we would see an increase in the number of minorities, especially blacks, jump on board.
When asked who should receive the vaccine first and in what order, each of our essential workers agreed that first responders and healthcare workers should be on the top of the priority list, followed by nursing home staff. Our school administrator and Chef Shelton agreed that educators should be next on the list. “Schools and nursing home facilities are places where COVID numbers are high. If educators want to take the vaccine, then they should – so many viruses spread like wildfire through a school”, says the administrator. Chef Shelton added that students need to be vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading to their teachers, classmates, and staff. “Our children need to be in schools, learning.”
The daunting truth is that since March, COVID-19 continues to be on the rise, nine months later. Will the vaccine work? Only time will tell. Though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the one thing we can all agree to is this: no one wants to endure another nine months of this pandemic. Let us comply with the rules and regulations established by the experts and our city/state officials. Watch our distance, wear our mask, wash our hands, and leave the worst of the coronavirus in 2020.
Kim Durden is a writer and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours and DivinE320.