Can I tell you a secret? I’m afraid to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. There, I said it. I’m sure this revelation wasn’t news to you. Hell, it wasn’t even news to me because I don’t even take the flu vaccine. Yes, the CDC estimated the deaths related to the flu for 2019-20 to be between 29,000 and 59,000. This toll doesn’t even count the flu-related hospitalizations for the October-to-March flu season. I knew the flu was deadly and I still didn’t take the vaccine.
But that was my thinking before 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic hit. In fact, according to a survey on Blackdoctor.org, that’s how 58% of Black Americans felt about taking a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. This new virus and its worldwide effect, has made me rethink my position of getting vaccinated. I cannot ignore over 5.4 million cases and 170,000+ fatalities associated with the virus domestically. That makes it 3-to-6 times more deadly than the flu. The virus just began picking up steam in February 2020.
I also have to take into account that I am a Black American. This makes the coronavirus and taking a new vaccine more complicated. Statistically speaking, I am more likely to get the virus and almost 2.5 times more likely to die if I do get it. It doesn’t matter how I feel about new vaccines being a modern version of the Tuskegee Experiment, I cannot ignore the deadly facts about the coronavirus. So, as my mom used to say, “I’m stuck like Chuck.”
So what do I do? Do I ignore the numbers and don’t take the vaccine? Or, do I swallow my fears, find a doctor I can trust, and take the vaccine? My fears extend beyond me. I have older parents with health conditions that make the virus more lethal. I have a child that just recently went off to college who could infect her campus if she catches it. Or she might not be allowed back at all. I also have a younger child who is returning to school. How do I protect him (and us) without being vaccinated? Tough questions with even tougher decisions to make.
As I stated earlier, I’m afraid to take the vaccine. I am a naturalist. I don’t like taking medication if I can help it. I treat my high cholesterol with diet and exercise. But the coronavirus is different. It is unique. It is so unique that it has shut our economy down. It has become a hot topic for the November elections. It has caused entire conferences to cancel fall sports. It has school systems scrambling and made working-from-home commonplace. The airports and airlines are working at 25% capacity, and movie theaters have all but disappeared. I wear a mask, wash my hands, and social distance but, is that enough?
I’m afraid to take the vaccine. Fear can be a powerful feeling that can shape and drive our decisions – sometimes without us even knowing it. At the same time, love is a feeling that’s even more powerful than fear. I love my parents, my wife, my children, and my community more than I fear the vaccine. More importantly, I love myself. I love myself enough to set aside my fear, choose a doctor I trust, and take the vaccine. My only fear now is what could happen if I don’t?