My journey as a medical SLP began last summer, about 4 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. My first day in the hospital, I remember thinking “Well, my knowledge of typical hospital routine that I obtained during graduate school clinicals, practically no longer exists.” Surgical and/or N-95 masks were now required at all times. There were no longer hospital visitations. Everyone was expected to review procedures for donning and doffing PPE. We were expected to remain aware of protocols for patient and community exposures. So much had changed from the “norm.”
As a medical SLP, I have felt many emotions seeing first hand how our critical units become full and emergency departments over capacity. As a Black SLP, seeing the Black race become a leading number in the deaths from COVID-19 has been exhausting. According to the CDC, right now Black people are 1.4x more likely to be hospitalized or die from Covid than White people.
So let’s get into the real question. Am I pro vaccine or anti? Well if you are a friend of mine on social media then you know that I am PRO vaccine. I’ve heard the opinion of so many (specifically from the Black community) express their doubt in the vaccine. Concerns have mostly been about the rapid production of the vaccine and the government system. So let’s address the first. The rapid production of the vaccine does not deny the efficacy of it. I am going to simplify this as best as I can with hopes of making sense. Please be mindful that I am not a scientist. I have attempted to study this in lament terms for months however, I encourage you to do your own research!
- No steps were cut to get the vaccine approved. Messenger RNA (mRNA-which is what the Covid 19 vaccine consists of)has been in human trials for over 5 years. Steps were prioritized (as they should have been) given the fact that the sky was falling.
- mRNA does not alter DNA. It develops a protein in our body to simply target the disease and basically helps our bodies build antigen (antibodies) to fight off a virus.
Okay, next. I am aware of what happened to our Black ancestors. If you are a familiar reader here, then you also know that I am also very aware of what we as a Black race face on the daily basis. I whole heartedly believe every Black person has the right to feel skeptical of something the government wants to put in our bodies, when we live in a country with a government system that has failed us time and time again. Recently, I read a CNN opinion article by Tina Sacks titled “When Black people are wary of vaccine, it’s important to listen and understand why.” The author made valid points as to why we have the right to be skeptical of the Covid vaccine. She made the notorious reference to the Tuskegee study in 1932. However, she also stated factual information about the Black community in regard to demographics. Two factors that warrant our high risk of contracting Covid are:
- Our communities have fewer access to places to purchase healthy food. This in return leads to us having unhealthy lifestyles that further causes us to develop multiple health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, etc.
- We work in jobs that are considered “essential” but are low-paying.
- Black people are less likely to receive the health care we deserve.
Personally, I’ve known Black people that have or had Covid and refused to seek medical attention when needing to do so. Why? Because there is simply a lack of trust. The disparity runs so deep that we would rather suffer at home because of fear that we won’t receive the deserving care. I was originally anti-vaccine out of fear. I mean we all know the saying “History repeats itself.” I had every right to be. But, seeing first hand how this is NOT just affecting the Black race, but also the Hispanics, Asians and Whites, changed my view. It’s bigger than me. I think of my grandparents who mean the world to me. I think of my medically fragile pediatric patients. I think of the nursing homes or assisted living facilities that have had huge outbreaks and their families have had to wave to them through a window for almost a year. I think of my hospital patients that are admitted and lay in a hospital bed, alone all day with little human interaction. I think of the medical essential workers who put our lives on the line each and everyday, then return home to our loved ones. It is bigger than me and that is why I got the vaccine.
You know the saying “you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.” I miss life before this pandemic. I miss hugging my grandparents and visiting them without a mask. I missed gathering with my entire family for the holidays. It’s bigger than me as an individual but together, we can overcome this.
I encourage you all to follow CDC guidelines. Think of more than just yourself. Wear a mask. Stay safe and pray that this will all be over soon.