Young Black adults stand in a unique position— their race makes them disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 but their age makes them less likely to suffer severe symptoms if they contract the virus.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for people ages 18 and older in the U.S,” as reported by CNN.
Kalyn Brown and Erin James are twenty-two-year-old Baltimore natives. Both have decided that when the vaccine becomes available to them, they will more than likely not take it.
Kalyn makes it clear that she is an “anti- coronavirus vaccine.” She explains what she understands about the COVID-19 vaccine, “it’s kind of like a flu shot. Where they give all of the components of the virus so that you can build immunity to it.”
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an African American woman research scientist and pioneer in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination, explained how the COVID-19 vaccine works in an interview conducted by CBS News earlier this year. Accord- ing to Dr. Corbett, the “vaccine teaches the body how to fend off a virus because it teaches the body how to look for the virus by basically just showing the body the spike protein of the virus. The body then says, ‘oh,’ we’ve seen this protein before, let’s go fight against it.”
Kalyn’s personal decision to not take the COVID-19 vaccination mirrors her decision to not get the flu vaccination after going three years without one. For the COVID-19 vaccination, Kalyn said, “I don’t think it makes sense for us to take the vaccine, especially when everyone’s [body] may react differently to it.”
Unlike Kalyn, Christina Mashishi’s decision to take the COVID-19 vaccination lies in her inability to determine how her body will react to the virus and not the vaccine. The 22-year-old Bowie native said, “I don’t know how my body’s going to react to [COVID-19]. I [have] never gotten [COVID-19] before by God’s grace, but I just don’t want to take my chances.” She also mentioned that she does not want to take any chances regarding experiencing any severe symptoms of the virus.
According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), “COVID-19 vaccination is safer to help build protection. COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you.”
Erin James uses the words “odd,” “fresh,” and “incomplete” to describe her understanding of the COVID-19 vaccination. She shares that “she really doesn’t know too much about the vaccine. “I just know that they literally conjured it up in 2.5 seconds to serve to the public and it has adverse effects.”
The potential adverse effects, ingredients of the vaccine, and the urgent push for vaccination have influenced Erin’s decision not to take the vaccine.
It’s not uncommon for scientists to take five years or more to create a new vaccine. However, in the case of the COVID-19 vaccination, previous knowledge of other coronaviruses; large funding for COVID-19 research; mRNA technology; and global teamwork are all key factors that sped up the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the CBS interview, Dr. Corbett mentioned that scientists applied six years’ worth of knowledge to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Available links for information about the ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be found on the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html).. “The two COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States do not contain eggs, preservatives or latex,” according to the CDC.
Twenty-one and 24-year-old Baltimore natives Jasmine Addae and Willard Brewington have decided they will take the COVID-19 vaccination once it’s available to them.
Jasmine describes her understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine as limited.
She says she just knows that there are two doses of the vaccines and two types of vaccines from two different companies. “From my understanding, some people experience mild symptoms,” Jasmine said.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. According to the CDC, it’s not un-common to experience symptoms such as “fever, chills, tiredness and headaches.” Pain and swelling can also occur at the injection site. The CDC also notes, “serious problems from vaccination can happen, but they are rare.”
Jasmine and Willard’s decision to re- receive a COVID-19 vaccination is linked to the desire to return to society before the COVID-19 virus.
Jasmine shares that “a lot of people have died because of COVID-19. The way society has functioned, we have to adapt to a new normal. I’m kind of tired of that.” Jasmine also notes that she un- understand that wearing a mask and social distancing are important, but a significant number of individuals are not wearing masks and social distancing.
Willard expressed that the confidence of other scientists and medical professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci makes him trust the vaccine. “The 95 percent effectiveness combined with my own desire for society to get back to normal makes me want to take it. Also, people already take a flu shot, and I believe the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t really that different from that, “ he said.
When asked if there is anything that could be done to change their minds about taking a COVID-19 vaccination, Kalyn and Erin both replied, “not a really.” Erin noted that she would have to make herself more knowledgeable regarding the makeup of the vaccine.
Christina, Jasmine and Willard acknowledged that they understand why young African American adults might display skepticism on receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. However, they all urge young, Black adults to do their research. Christina shared that she too was skeptical at first but she did her research and has decided that the best option for her is to get the vaccine. She encourages everyone to do their own research on credited websites, listen to the professionals, ask questions and more importantly pay attention to what is being said and done in other countries.
Jasmine says that young, Black adults should think about the positives about getting the vaccine. Think about how the vaccine could really stop the spread of the virus. It’s been over a year now since it started and it’s hurt a lot of different families. People have lost their jobs and businesses and now that we have sort of a solution in place, we need to do everything we can to stop the virus.