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Getting COVID-19 Vaccinated: My Journey From Fear To Empowerment

“I’d rather get vaccinated than get sick” is seemingly the most logical thought one could have during a year-long global pandemic. But that thought, in fact, was not what first came to mind when I learned vaccines against COVID-19 would be made available to the public. “How did they come up with a vaccine so fast?” I asked. “It’s not effective,” I said, dismissively.

I joined other people in being fearful of taking a new vaccine. And as an African American who is aware of the Tuskegee experiment and the history of other dubious, racially-motivated medical practices performed in decades past, I thought – “Not me! I’ll let others get it and we’ll see what happens.”

But I eventually changed my mind. Here’s why.

By early February, vaccines were in Detroit and obtaining an appointment to get a vaccine became possible for me and my family. Three vaccine options had emerged from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Then, one afternoon, I looked on my calendar and noticed a work-related event requires my presence this summer. That means being around co-workers I haven’t seen in-person for over a year.

I also thought about my family. My mother is in her 60s and my sister is in her 40s and physically disabled. I know if either contracted Covid-19, the experience would be difficult, possibly devastating. Shouldn’t I help protect their lives?

I also thought about a wedding I am invited to attend this summer, and how my social life and time with friends and other family has been socially distanced or nonexistent for over a year now. “I want to finally meet my nephew born last August,” I thought.

It became clear that the solution to “getting my life back” was getting a COVID-19 vaccine. No quick actions were taken. I took time to think about it more.

Soon, I realized that getting vaccinated would be a way to empower myself. Since, there are three vaccine options, why not give myself the power to choose which vaccine I get? That is when I embraced my preference for Pfizer’s vaccine due to its 95% efficacy rate. Getting vaccinated would also mean taking charge of protecting myself from the deadly virus.

Eventually, I also learned facts about the vaccines. While covering Detroit Regional Chamber’s digital discussion, “Vaccine Insight with MSU Leaders,” I learned research for the vaccine did not come from out of nowhere like I assumed. Michigan State University President Dr. Stanley Samuel, an infectious disease researcher, made a point to clarify that research into a safe vaccine addressing the SARS virus (COVID-19 is medically known as SARS-Cov-2) started in 2002 during the outbreak of SARS-Cov-1.

Then this blog by Wellness Works came across my desk. It makes clear the ingredients used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and how both vaccines work to be effective in the human body. This information coupled with my desire to reclaim aspects of a normal life led me to go from having vaccine hesitancy to being ready to schedule a vaccine appointment.

When I told my family that deciding whether to get the vaccine ultimately comes down to being a part of solution or the problem, they also eventually let go of their hesitancy and fear. We chose to do our part to help end the pandemic that has claimed far too many lives.

My mother, my sister and I got an appointment to get the Pfizer vaccine at the TCF Center Drive-Thru Vaccination Site in downtown Detroit in early March. “First dose day” went smooth. We were greeted politely by organizers and medical practitioners. We filled out forms that asked questions about our medical and allergy history. Getting the first shot took less than 10 seconds. I was pleasantly surprised by how thin the needle is, making the shot painless. Over the next few days, my family and I all experienced no noticeable side effects, other than arm soreness at the injection site and a bit of exhaustion.

“Second dose day” occurred in early April and went even smoother than the first time. My mother, my sister, and I did not experience any noticeable side effects after getting the second dose, despite hearing on the news that side effects with the second dose were more likely. I experienced arm soreness again but placing an ice bag on the injection site helped a lot.

My family and I are now fully vaccinated and looking forward to the pandemic ending and our lives getting back to complete normalcy. I encourage everyone to get the vaccine, regardless of age, race, gender, health status, or physical ability.

Written by: Alicia McClendon of Let’s Detroit

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