By Jim Brown
We traveled to West Philadelphia last Saturday and asked residents how they felt about finally having access to the COVID-19 vaccine, that would hopefully bring an end to the coronavirus that has affected millions of people and caused the global pandemic.
The city has been having a serious problem with vaccine distribution to minority communities disproportionately affected by the disease and who don’t have the same access to the vaccine as their white counterparts.
There needs to be a grass roots effort and logistical plan that includes the participation of the Black and brown communities at the table. This is the best way to do community outreach and educate minority residents in the comfort of their communities to build the trust that it will take to vaccinate the majority of the residents. Once others see and embrace the vaccine, hopefully those who had reservations about the vaccine will get it.
Tyree Johnson, publisher of the Westside Weekly, talked the importance of bringing the vaccine to the communities where residents would feel comfortable accepting it.
“They should be more in the communities, closer to the people who really need them,” stated Johnson. “You know, sometimes it takes a while to get there [Lincoln Financial Field]. I hear that the transportation is pretty good via the subway. But I think it’s easier if they have it on 52nd Street, 60th Street — for people it should be easier access for neighborhoods around the city and serve the people in the neighborhood.”
But now between the Black Doctors Consortium and the Philadelphia Health Department creating three mass vaccination sites in the past few weeks in and near minority communities, some residents are coming forward to get the shot. Whether they’re getting vaccinated at dialysis centers, charter schools, churches and in basketball gyms, there’s still some residents who have a wait and see attitude toward receiving the much-needed vaccine.
West Philadelphia resident Valerie A. Owens, 68, remarked why it was convenient to receive her first Pfizer vaccination shot at her dialysis treatment center. She will be receiving her second shot on March 5th.
“I have had dialysis for over 20 years and I’m taking this vaccine because I need it for what I’m going through,” says Owens. “I was hesitant about taking it (the vaccine) because we here so much about the vaccine, and me being a Black person, they may be giving me something wrong and try to take me away from here. So, I decided to come in here and take the vaccine and live with it.”
Because of the past experiments with blacks being part of government studies without their consent or knowledge of what was being done, many African Americans today have never forgot what happened then and don’t trust our government or the science creating the cure to COVID-19 in just a year for them to quell their fears.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” said Lafonda Stewart, another West Philadelphia resident. “Because, I’m hearing a lot of different things about people getting sick from it and different symptoms from it.
Pfizer, Moderna and now Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giants that created the current vaccines, have been researching the coronavirus over the last eight years when the country was battling the SARS and MERS coronavirus strains. The COVID-19 coronavirus is part of the extended study of the virus’ strains.
Nurse Cheyenne Mundy, who is enthusiastic about the vaccine, she shared her thoughts about the importance of getting vaccinated.
“The vaccine, I feel is important to me because we have a lot of elderly people in our population that can easily get sick,” explained Mundy. “And those people need to be protected the most. And I think people getting vaccinated is the first step and also the first step to normalcy. And hopefully, eventually down the line we can stop wearing mask as we get vaccinated and the numbers start to decrease (COVID-19 cases) and I’m hopeful for it and I’m trying to be optimistic.”
“The reason I won’t get the vaccine is to see someone take it and had a bad reaction,” said Southwest Philadelphia resident Devon Byrd. “And ever since that, I’ve been scared. To be honest, and that’s the reason that I’m not taking it. I do agree that it can save my life but I’m scared.”
“Fear is a big thing,” added Byrd. “So, I try to be very precautious and wear my face mask because, I’m an inventory specialist and I travel to a lot of stores, but that’s my reason why I don’t take the vaccine. And I want more information on the COVID-19 vaccine as a form of outreach to me and the community.”
Another resident summed up a reason why everyone should get the vaccine.
“It’s over 500,000 people who have died so far from the COVID-19 coronavirus, and no person has died from taking the vaccine. It’s pretty simple math to take the vaccine to save your life.”
This is a crisis, we are in a pandemic and people are dying. Some of you who will read this article has already known someone who has died from this disease and would embrace the vaccine if it can be brought to their neighborhood as part of the city’s logistical vaccine rollout.
This will be the real “Philly Special” when the city can vaccinate all of its citizens and reduce the spread of this virus in the next few months.