UNMASKING COVID: WE CAN’T GIVE UP

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Dr. Danita Johnson-Hughes

By Dr. Danita Johnson Hughes

For the record, I have taken both doses of one vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ward off COVID-19. And I’m still here. I haven’t grown antlers or sprouted wings, angelic, avian, or otherwise. As a matter of fact, I never experienced any adverse effects from either injection of the Pfizer vaccine. Thank God!

That’s not to say I don’t empathize with those who remain hesitant to get inoculated. Their reluctance is understandable given the novelty of the virus, the newness of the vaccine, the incredible swiftness of its development, and the unprecedented speed of FDA emergency use authorization. Not to mention the sordid history of governmental experimentation on people of color. Black people. My people. I get it.

The fact remains COVID is still infecting and killing people in record numbers and the pandemic isn’t going anywhere unless and until we do something about it. That means wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing. And for God’s sake, take the vaccine! The FDA has determined both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing COVID and both are working on boosters to combat mutations of the virus discovered in Great Britain, South Africa, and South America. The CDC and health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, recommend everyone get vaccinated and suggest the vast majority of the population must do so to defeat COVID once and for all.

Let’s be clear. Nobody likes needles. No one in their right mind looks forward to standing in long lines and waiting hours to have some masked stranger inject chemicals into their bodies. And trust me, precious few African Americans are anxious to be first, especially with Tuskegee on their minds. Statistics show white Americans are getting vaccinated at more than twice the rate of Blacks. This despite the fact Black people are far more likely to contract COVID and be killed by it. Numbers aside, the ugly truth is unless that trend is reversed any prospects of eradicating the virus, particularly in communities disproportionately impacted, are practically nil.

If we can agree on anything, it’s that every single one of us is sick and tired of COVID and the so called new normal it brought us. We’re tired of social distancing, tired of scrubbing our fingers raw, tired of death counts scrolling on our TVs. We’re sick to death of quarantine, social isolation, Zoom meetings. We miss hugging each other, going to football games, watching movies in actual movie theatres, and eating in restaurants. In essence we miss the comfort of normal life. The way it used to be before COVID, before Fauci, before Pfizer.  Most of all we’re sick of these infernal masks and cannot wait to actually see each other again.

Like you, I am sick of COVID, but, more importantly, I am not sick with COVID. I had my shots. I wear my mask. I’m doing everything possible to stay safe and healthy. I strongly encourage all of you to do likewise. Especially those who look like me.

Danita Johnson Hughes is a healthcare industry executive, author, speaker, columnist, and television commentator. Dr. Hughes is President and Chief Executive Officer of Edgewater Health a comprehensive behavioral and primary health care provider and child welfare services organization located in Gary, Indiana. She has held this position for over twenty years. At one time, Dr. Hughes was the only African-American President/CEO of an Indiana Division of Mental Health certified community mental health center in the state of Indiana.

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