VOICES: Why I changed my mind and decided to get vaccinated

On Aug. 23, I received my second Pfizer vaccination and I’m proud to now say, I’m fully vaccinated.

I debated whether or not to get the shot. Having a physical disability, I worried about getting the vaccine. I thought getting the vaccine would affect my disability, making it worse. Although there was no data or talk around this subject, my conspiracy theory overwhelmed me, making my decision to get vaccinated a “NO.”

Another reason it took me awhile to come to the conclusion to get vaccinated was history. Since the vaccination became available, all I kept hearing about in my community was the Tuskegee Studies of 1932. In case you are not aware, Black men in rural areas of Tuskegee, Alabama, were enrolled in an unethical study of syphilis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a term used to describe several ailments such syphilis, anemia and fatigue. Hundreds of the Black men had syphilis, but were not given penicillin, which became the standard treatment for the disease in 1943, in order to study how the untreated disease progressed. Many of them died.

Learning of this unethical study really put me on edge.

I know the Black community has come a long way since then and is making great strides. I love my culture and I’m proud to be a part of it. But I can’t say that I blame my people for being apprehensive about getting the vaccination due to that history.

What made me change my mind was seeing all of the innocent people who had contracted COVID-19 and died without any loved ones by their side. The images of people who lost their lives — and the stories of their lives filled with families, jobs and just living their best life — was just too much to bear. And, as I learned and listened, it was obvious that this virus wasn’t discriminating and many people with disabilities were dying, too.

Plus, the new Delta variant surge helped me come to my conclusion, and I’m hoping my decision helps with the masking issue. I still plan to wear a mask when required, but masking is difficult for me and I’ve tried all kinds. Having a disability, which includes a speech impairment, makes it even harder for people to understand me when I wear a mask because people can’t read my lips. Communication is even more difficult right now. Plus, it’s physically challenging to even put the mask on, so I’m praying my decision will make it easier to get back to a more independent life soon.

As I contemplated my decision, I thought about all the things I had missed doing, such as traveling, shopping, eating out, going to church and festivals, and just hanging out. I realized that if I took the vaccine, I would probably be able to do many of these things again. I also thought of the people I would be protecting if I took the vaccine because this problem isn’t just about me, it’s about everyone. Therefore, it’s going to take all of us working to solve it.

I got vaccinated at my local CVS in Westown Plaza. I was scared, nervous, and all the other emotions that go along with the unknowing for the first one. I told the pharmacist how I was feeling, and she’s assured me I would be OK and it would be over before I knew it. She was right, and it was a piece of cake. My second vaccination was equally easy. My arm was kind of sore afterward, but not unbearable and nothing a few Tylenol couldn’t fix.

Although my decision to get vaccinated was a process that took a lot of thought, I’m happy I did it. I hope me being vaccinated helps the world get back on the path to normalcy.

Shari Cooper is a public relations assistant at Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley and an advocate for disability inclusion.

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