Dr. Elaine Batchlor 

We are in the midst of our fourth coronavirus surge. Unvaccinated people of color of all ages – and increasingly younger people – are getting sick. Getting vaccinated will not only protect you, it will slow and even stop the spread of the virus.

If we don’t get vaccinated, I foresee repeat cycles of preventable deaths, business and school closures, and potentially even more dangerous variants of the virus in our future. Unfortunately, black and brown communities that have been the hardest hit by Covid are now lagging behind in taking advantage of the amazing science that led to our Covid vaccines.

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I have a deep understanding of the hesitancy of the Black community to get the vaccine, and I sympathize with the variety of reasons for it. My own 93-year-old mother refused to get vaccinated despite my constant urging. Her African American caretaker also refused to get vaccinated, until recently.  Do you know what changed her mind?  Three people she knew died—all of them in their thirties.

As Black people, we live in a different world. Our lifetime of different treatment has built a distrust of government and institutions. I recognize the depth of distrust and the racism that still exists.

But, I’m also a doctor who stands behind the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. I don’t want the death of a loved one to be what motivates you to roll up your sleeve.  I want your loved ones’ precious lives – and your own – to be the ‘why’ of getting vaccinated.

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So please, make an appointment to get the vaccine as soon as possible.  It’s safe, effective and free.

To encourage you to take this important step, I want to answer a few questions we are frequently asked about the vaccine.

Why is it important to get vaccinated?

Covid vaccines are powerful weapons to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community. They are especially important because they prevent spread to children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. They protect your vulnerable parents and grandparents, people whose immune systems do not function well (such as those with sickle cell anemia or people undergoing chemotherapy) and they protect younger adults who are increasingly prone to the new variants.

This is not just a personal decision; we will not reduce the threat of Covid until the virus has no place to go.  Right now, there are still too many unvaccinated people creating a home for the development of new, more dangerous variants.

What about vaccinated people who have still gotten Covid?

So-called “breakthrough infections” – getting Covid after being vaccinated – are rare.  Less than 1% of these cases have been reported nationwide.  However, even if you are one of those rare, “breakthrough” cases, you will likely experience symptoms that are no worse than a bad cold.  You are at far lower risk of serious, life-threatening illness. I know this first hand: None of the small number of fully vaccinated Covid patients in our health system have died.

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What if I am pregnant or hope to be pregnant?

The vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant women–anything you’ve read otherwise is simply untrue. In fact, it is even more important to get the vaccine because moms who get Covid during pregnancy are at a higher risk for severe illness. Please protect yourself and your baby by getting the vaccine as soon as possible.

How is the Delta variant different?

While we are still learning about the Delta variant, we know that it spreads more quickly and can cause more severe illness than the initial Covid variants. We also know that the Covid vaccines provide powerful protection against all strains, including Delta. The best way to avoid this variant is to get your vaccine, and continue wearing your mask and practicing social distancing, especially indoors.

What about booster shots? Why are they needed?

While we know that vaccination is effective, researchers are keeping an eye on how long protection lasts. Third shots are already being given to people with compromised immunity to keep them protected. Booster shots for others may begin in the coming months.  I will be ready for mine.

Will it hurt?  Will I get sick?
Most people experience no side effects at all after receiving the vaccine, but even for those who do, I can assure you that a temporarily sore arm or fatigue pales in comparison to being on a ventilator, fighting for your life.

How do I get the vaccine?

Getting the vaccine is easy. You can visit our website at mlkch.org/covid19 for more information and to book an appointment in your neighborhood. Many local pharmacies are also able to give the vaccine.

If you haven’t had the vaccine yet, make arrangements today. It’s safe, effective and life-saving. I’ll work on my own stubborn mother. I ask that you join me in rolling up your sleeves and encouraging your loved ones to do the same.