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Confronting Vaccine Hesitancy
March 17, 2021
You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.
-Maya Angelou

Today’s ExchangeEveryDay was submitted as an article for Exchange magazine, but Sara Gilliam, Exchange’s Editor-in-Chief, felt it was too timely to wait for the next edition in May. She asked that we run it today. Thank you, Melody, for sharing your story:

Confronting Vaccine Hesitancy:
An Educator Educates Herself
By Melody Robinson

“How did I get here? It’s 1 p.m., and I’m at a Jewel-Osco grocery store on Chicago’s northwest side. I’m about to take my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I can recall just a few months ago how adamantly against the COVID-19 vaccine I felt. I was not going to entertain the thought of vaccination, regardless of the information coming out about its effectiveness. Yet, here I am taking my second dosage.

While nervously waiting to be called for the vaccine, I met and formed a bond with some really interesting people from different walks in life. What we had in common was our desire to be protected from the coronavirus. We shared our united hope for ourselves, families, friends and coworkers. We acknowledged how thankful we were to have received an appointment after trying for hours or days to schedule online.

“Melody Robinson,” called the doctor. It was my turn. I entered the clinical room and was greeted kindly and handed literature about the vaccine. As I removed my jacket to expose my arm for the injection, the doctor asked if I had any questions. No, I replied.

All the while I was thinking, ‘Is this really necessary? What if I never get Covid? Should I take the risk?’
Quickly, I gathered my thoughts and told myself, “Lead by example. Show others, it’s not wrong to have doubts, fears and uncertainties about the pandemic. But allowing those fears to keep you from doing all you can to live is the real concern.”

You might ask, what changed my mind? Well, as an educator, I pride myself on being informed before speaking and taking a stand on issues that present themselves in my life. I encourage the children I teach and care for to do the same. But here I was, not being open-minded about something that could be so crucial in saving millions of lives here in America and around the world—especially the lives of those in Black and brown communities, who are at a greater risk of loss.
I can honestly say, some of my fears and those of people of color are truly justifiable. If we take a real hard look at American history, we can find many examples of exploitation of Black and brown people by the medical and scientific communities. For example, the Tuskegee Experiment, which led many African Americans to mistrust public health officials and vaccines. News events today have exposed the many injustices and inequalities against Black and brown people and communities. These injustices can be seen through unfair housing, schools, access to quality health care, jobs, stores offering nutritious foods and social justice issues. We all know these problems exist. And I believe change starts from within and society’s acknowledgment and willingness to address these injustices.

So, I made time to research the COVID-19 vaccine.
To my surprise, I learned that a young African American immunologist named Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spearheaded the research on the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Corbett, along with her team at the National Institutes of Health, collaborated with the pharmaceutical company Moderna. Their goal was to find a vaccine that would slow down—if not end—this pandemic that was claiming so many lives.

Here was a woman of color who looked like me, and had faced similar challenges. Kizzmekia was using her past and current experiences and knowledge in science and viral immunology to save lives. To show the world she cares.

“I want to move Black and brown people from only 55 percent saying they would take the vaccine if proven safe,” she said.

Like Dr. Kizzmekia, who has no doubt changed our world, I want to encourage Black and brown people to take back the power we have to decide our destiny and educate ourselves in making wise choices—no matter what that choice might be for you. We must fight to live and not allow this pandemic to continue to destroy our community. We have come too far to give up now.”



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Comments (4)

Displaying All 4 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · March 18, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States


Thank you for the comment!

-Tiffany at Exchange

Tiffany Peckham · March 18, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States


Thank you for sharing your perspective.


Tiffany at Exchange

Karen Shirley · March 17, 2021
Natick, MA, United States

Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing your research and sharing your results with others. Your work and honesty could save so many lives. I hope everyone who reads this article forwards it to at least one person experiencing hesitancy.

Cynthia Aldinger · March 17, 2021
Sacramento, CA, United States

Please be mindful of sharing an article from the research that offers good reason to question the potential long term effects of these vaccines. It is unconscionable how deeply one-sided the media is on this topic. Thank you for considering this.

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