To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, that is the Question.
We care. The GC NAACP Community cares about you and we hear you. One year ago, a dashboard was the control panel of your car, and words like pandemic, epidemic, mutated virus, and antidotal vaccines were reserved for movies. Now, films like I am Legend, Contagion, and World War Z help inform our unfortunate reality. COVID-19. Approximately 27 million reported cases and approximately a half million reported deaths from this never scene virus. It is our belief that the numbers are an underrepresentation of the true total. We know daily infections and deaths continue to rise. We are living a deadly public health crisis because of this highly contagious virus. Since December of last year, we have had an antidote that may prevent COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna have created vaccines that may prevent the devastation of Covid-19 based on their clinical trial data and efficacy. While neither vaccine is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, both companies have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to provide relief immediately. In our community, there exist obstacles and untruths that have resulted in hesitancy to accept the vaccines. Among our NAACP members, there is acceptance, hesitancy, and outright rejection of the vaccines. Mistrust, history, systemic racism with unconscious bias, lack of knowledge and fear have led to vaccine hesitancy. Our goal is to educate and empower everyone so that they may make a sound and informed decision to accept or decline the vaccine. Sound decision making results from a healthy nonjudgmental discussion with your Health Care Providers to review the truth regarding the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine.
We, the Gloucester County NAACP support the safety of our community. We encourage everyone to educate themselves and make an informed decision about the vaccine. We support the evidence developed from the Moderna and Pfizer-Biontech clinical trials and their data. We respect the findings of the CDC and the National Institute of Health. We believe the National Medical Association – the oldest and largest national organization representing Black doctors who support and encourage the vaccination of our community.
We are inundated with snippets of information from multiple sources. From various social media platforms, we receive forwarded statements, read them, and ultimately forward them to our friends and families without substantiating or confirming if what we have read is correct. In short, it is important that we are assured that what we are passing along is correct. If not, we are unknowingly promoting untruths. Repeating these untruths ad nauseum may allow them to become “truth”.
The COVID-19 disease is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. It is highly contagious and is spread either through inhaling respiratory droplets in the air or by touching nonporous surfaces where it may survive for over 12 hours. It may affect individuals differently. Symptoms range from mild cold or flu like to severe shortness of breath and respiratory arrest. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, muscle and body aches, runny nose, sore throat, productive or dry cough, chest pain, blood clots, or strokes. We have learned over the past year that the morbidity and mortality of COVID is worse for our older population, individuals with co-morbidities, and those who live or work in close quarters. We have learned that patients with underlying psychiatric disorders are especially vulnerable to COVID due to poor self-care, medical comorbidities, and obesity. It is important to acknowledge the disproportionate devastation in the African American, Native American, and Latinx communities. Minorities have the greatest mortality rate regardless of the chosen age demographic. If that is not sufficient, you can still contract the “Rona” after surviving your first bout. To date, we are aware that there exists at least three mutated strains that are either more contagious or severe than the instigator of the ongoing pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccine provides great protection from the virus. In general, vaccines work by coming in contact with our immune systems to condition our body to develop memory cells to fight against the virus. While we continue to document positive cases and deaths daily, that number is decreasing as more individuals are vaccinated. The protection of the vaccine helps to prevent contracting the virus, to reduce the severity of symptoms if contracted, or decrease the likelihood of passing it along. We now know that resultant immunity occurs 2 weeks after completing the 2 shot series of the vaccine and if you are exposed again it is not necessary to quarantine. Continuing to wear your mask is encouraged.
The following associations and organizations (but not limited to) support the science behind the vaccines and recommend its vaccination to most individuals:
There is no payment for the vaccines. Operation Warp Speed, with the help of our tax dollars has paid for our vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines consist of Messenger RNA(mRNA), salt, sugar, and fat. They do not contain live coronavirus, preservatives, pork products, fetal tissue, stem cells, mercury, thimersol, aluminum, tracer technology, microchips, luciferase, the Mark of the Beast nor the ability to alter one’s DNA. They do not possess the ability enter into the nucleus of the cells where our DNA is found. The mRNA enters the cytoplasm of the cells presenting coding for parts of the coronavirus protein, the immune fighting cells identity this information as foreign and mounts memory to fight against the virus.
After discussions with some medical health care workers and members of the community, we have found that they are hesitant to accept the vaccine at this time because they believe that it was developed too quickly and was brought to market without enough data on the long term effects. The technology on which the vaccines were developed has been around for over 10 years and has been used in other vaccines to stop deadly viruses. The reason for the expedience to implement the use of these vaccines was to stop the escalating severity of corona disease and the accompanying death rate. Prior to EUA, both companies had over 70 thousand willing participants in their trials wherein minorities made up over 30 %. The trials showed that the participants were not likely to contract or develop severe disease from the virus. There were no deaths from receiving the vaccines. Today these trial participants will continue to be followed for any long-term side effects.
According to ACOG and ASRM, the COVID vaccines do not impact fertility and they do not discourage women of childbearing age from being vaccinated. Receiving the vaccine during pregnancy is a decision made between patient and Health Care Provider. The AAP supports all individuals 16 and older to receive the vaccine unless there is a relevant underlying condition. Any concerns should be shared with health care providers to discuss with the family and patient. It should be noted that there were no children included in the trials, therefore, no information is available for the younger children yet.
There are side effects that should be noted. For some individuals with a history of serious allergies requiring an EPI-PEN, there may be a risk for a reaction and should therefore alert the staff administering the vaccine and bring along their EPI-PEN.
Once again, trust is an issue for vaccinations. A large portion of our community’s distrust comes from the deplorable history this country has with treating minority patients. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment saw hundreds of African American men infected with this disease, “treated” with placebos and diagnostic procedures, and then observed as they worsened and died over the course of the next few decades. Unethical. Penicillin for treatment was available.
Dr. Susan Moore was 52 when she died. As a doctor she was acutely aware of her symptoms and the severity of COVID, but as an African American woman she was inadequately treated for her affliction. She took to social media to share her experience of racism and to speak against the biased care delivered to minority patients. Dr. Moore died from complications of COVID-19. Certainly, had she received the COVID vaccine perhaps her early demise may have been avoided. With fairness, not all white doctors mistreat us. It is especially important to be educated and have support to advocate for you. Unfortunately, we are unable to accompany our family members into the hospital.
For one year we have been terrorized by this highly contagious killer that has devastated families, murdered grandparents and youth alike, with no deference for the healthy. Even our young athletes are succumbing to COVID-19 myocarditis. “The Long Haulers”, that is, individuals left with residual disabilities and symptoms after recovering from COVID-19 give us a daily reminder that COVID-19 must be eradicated. The decision to accept the COVID-19 vaccine is an individual one, but given the facts over the last year, we believe that the vaccine is the answer. You chose. Please avail yourself to additional information by visiting COVID19.nj.gov or contact us. Your concerns will not be dismissed.
Please remember the 3 W’s:
Wear your mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands
Dr. Irene Kirkland-Mintz, Chair