Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip Toe if you must, but take a step. Naeem Callaway
Every Friday, Dr. Oliver Williams, Executive Director of the Institute of Domestic Violence in the African American Community and a professor in social work at the University of Minnesota, becomes even more baffled by the so-called logic in adults and parents who say, “I’m not taking the vaccine, and neither is my child. I don’t know what’s in it, and I know how doctors and hospitals have treated Black patients in the past for decades.” Noting that a brilliant, Black female scientist played a major role in the release of a vaccine that has saved millions of lives, Williams asks, “Do you honestly think she would recommend something that would kill her own family and friends? I’m trying to make sense of no sense.”
I went to my favorite pizza joint the other night. A veggie pizza and an ice-cold Heineken was the key to my journalistic revival for the week. I didn’t go in the kitchen of the restaurant and ask, “Hey, what kind of flour did you use in the crust, where did the vegetables come from, and what did the farmer feed the cow that produced the cheese on my dinner that just came out of the pizza oven?”
Like Dr. Williams, I’m trying to ‘make sense out of nonsense’. We are playing Russian roulette. No protection with the vaccination we know has been proven to work, no anti-bodies.
Al McFarlane often tells the story of how the two of us and our third grade classmates lined up classes either on the playground or in the gymnasium where school nurses would administer the polio vaccine. There were no permission slips required. Our parents were out to save their babies. We didn’t want to grow up without a limb. Then there was the tuberculosis vaccine that kept us from spending several months in an iron lung that kept us breathing. The German measles had the potential of wiping out a generation had the vaccine not been available. Today, with all the top medical technology and brilliant scientific minds from around the world coming together to find a cure, what ‘sense’ does it make for right wingers following a deranged former white house executive (I could never call him president) who tried to convinced them to drink bleach to kill the virus. Although it’s insanity, it is cushioned with white privilege and systemic racism. Our children just want to be kids, enjoy playing with their friends, and feeling safe to sit at their family dinner table not having to worry about who could infect who because everyone had not been vaccinated.
Following an emergency authorization from the CDC, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that the state was ready to administer the vaccine to the younger population. “Getting our children vaccinated will help our kids be kids again,” the Governor said in a statement to the press. “Now that the vaccine has been approved for kids, ages 5-11, Minnesota is ready to move quickly, efficiently, and equitably. I encourage families to make a plan to get their child vaccinated and help keep them safe,” Walz said.
Children’s vaccines are 1/3 the size of the adult version; two shots, three weeks apart.
COVID19 has kept children from doing the things they love. The best way to keep our children healthy and safe is to get them vaccinated. Getting your child vaccinated helps keep them in school, sports, and other activities. Children who are fully vaccinated do not have to stay home (quarantine) if they are exposed to someone who has the virus. They also don’t have to get tested as often. The vaccination helps protect children and the people around them.
Dr. Bravada Garrett Akinsanya, (Dr. B) founder and CEO of the African American Child Wellness Institute, has had to re-designed her practice to tele-therapy. Dr. B. and her clinical teams both at AACWI and Brakins Consulting and Psychological Services continue to follow evidence-based protocols. In a concerted effort to quell the confusion and misinformation leading to so many contradictions, the esteemed mental health practitioner has coined yet another mantra: If Black Lives Matter, Save Yours and Get the Vaccine Now!
Vaccines have been carefully studied and have gone through any number of clinical trials before they were recommended to be given to children and teens. Getting two doses provides 90.7% good protection. The Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year-olds had no reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle); pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside of the heart); or anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction).
“Parents today are faced with the conflict created by mandates,” says Dr. B. “Since some refuse to take the vaccine, does that make me a bad parent if I don’t allow my child to be vaccinated? What would motivate these adults to take the shot? Does it matter that decades ago we were protected by vaccines, e.g. German and three-day measles, chicken pox, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough. Had we not been protected by the science not as sophisticated as today’s phenomenal medical feats, most of our generations decades ago would not be alive to tell our stories today. It was a normal occurrence that in the first grade, our parents had to have us ‘school ready’ which included immunizations, or we couldn’t sit in a classroom. When COVID began to surge and Black communities were being fatally impacted, believers were on their knees praying not to die. Now that we have a cure, there is all this purposefully planted false misinformation clouding adult judgment. We are back to trying to make sense out of no sense.”
McFarlane connected anti-vaccination disinformation efforts to voter suppression and expansive ongoing resistance to Black empowerment and prosperity. He said pervasive white supremacy culture supporting policies and practices derive profit from destabilizing and marginalizing our community. “The far right is hell-bent on holding on to power through voter suppression and resource denial. If they can keep people at each other, our health and well-being will be at peril. What they must fear, the loss of power, is inevitable and imminent. The demographics back a reality that is causing them to act in desperation,” McFarlane said.
I loved the example Dr. B. often gives to her youth clients. “It gets bitter cold in the winter months in Minnesota, doesn’t it,” she asks. “Wouldn’t you find it rather strange and dangerous if someone would walk down the street with no shoes and bikini during those months? Don’t you think they would need protection to keep from freezing to death? It’s the same concept. You need protection from this disease that has killed 760,000 Americans alone. I still believe that in our genes and our blood, Black America has the wisdom to know we need to survive; that preventing getting the disease with the vaccine instead of taking medicine once we are infected, makes more sense. We must create a culture where we claim the right to be well, promoting our survival and our thriving with the purpose of adaptation and growth from generation to generation. It should be a conversation of truth every day. I realize we are all battle weary. But we must fight on because those who have perished from this disease cannot. Our children depend on us to make things right and be there for them. It’s our responsibility. Let’s do this together! We are people worth protecting,” Dr. B says.
Dr. B. always opens the Friday Healing Circle by reminding us all of the power of the spirits of our ancestors; the chorus of elders, family, and friends pouring in designated appointments, roadmaps for fulfillment, and dreams that existed even before we were born.
With physical and emotional challenges created by COVID19 isolation for fear of the unvaccinated, I am in daily conversation with the Creator and also talk to ‘The Red Bird’, a model boat my father made in 1932. Sitting on the seat of the boat is a pink cancer pin, the disease that took both of my parents’ lives. Often, I can feel my mother’s presence drying my tears. This I know to be true.
According to a CMM report, when Perrysburg School Superintendent Thomas Hosler sent a survey to parents in his Toledo-area district to see how many wanted to get their children vaccinated against Covid-19, he got more than 20,000 “no” responses . His district only has 5,700 students in it. “Clearly someone spent a lot of time in their basement working hard to invalidate our survey,” Hosler said. “That gives you an idea of how people are reacting to pandemic decisions. This year, for our teachers especially, it feels a lot more stressful and we’re only in November.”
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