From COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitant to COVID-19 Vaccine Empowered

January 13, 2021-New York State Vaccination Site opens at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (photo: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Sheila Ferguson

In early March, I interviewed Dannielle Braden for Cleveland Documenters and Neighbor Up’s “Voices of the Vaccine Series.” Braden is a 30-year-old family support social worker and a southeast side Cleveland resident.

During our chat, we discussed this African American daughter, granddaughter, niece, wife, and mother’s thoughts about the COVID-19 vaccination process. She noted that throughout the pandemic she moved from listening to the opinions of others to “following the science.” In her words, it’s more valuable to seek out only factual information about COVID-19 symptomatology, therapeutics and care. It also has enriched her knowledge of vaccine administration and distribution across the United States.

Most importantly, staying on top of factual COVID-19 information, has helped to guide her family’s health maintenance and that of the Hough area families she serves. Braden noted that originally she was not 100% sold on getting the vaccine“Early on,” she said, “there just was not enough research being done on the virus itself and the vaccine’s impact on African Americans and people of color, women in their childbearing years, and pregnant women and nursing mothers.”

Because of the lack of information about getting vaccinated, she said: “In the beginning I could have been classified as “vaccine hesitant.” But now I am convinced by the research that vaccinations and herd immunity are critical to everyone’s health and safety. So, when my turn comes around, I am getting vaccinated.“

She credits her change in perspective to the public health sector. “They helped me to get it!” Braden said. “They’re working hard to reach the vaccine-hesitant, the COVID deniers and people of color fearing medical discrimination.” She suggested that everyone read updates from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the Ohio Department of Health.

It all came together when I learned that African Americans and other people of color are twice as likely to die from the virus and half as likely to get vaccinated than white Americans. “That is scary because the choice to not get vaccinated hurts people of color as we are at the highest risks for death and chronic illness. Also, without vaccinations everyone is at higher risk for getting COVID-19 or becoming either a symptomatic or an asymptomatic spreader which kills.”

Beware of Conspiracy Theories

What will help change minds? She said reaching the anti-science folk, including COVID deniers, anti-vaxxers and people of color who are concerned about medical racism is key! Since the beginning, these groups have been speaking loudly.

Barriers to Vaccination
Belief that the COVID-19 vaccines cause:

Ø  Death.

Ø  Female infertility.

Ø  autoimmune disease; and

Ø  reprograms your DNA.

Ø  Alzheimer’s disease.

Ø  Prion’s disease because it is loaded with “toxins.”  There is also the belief that the COVID-19 vaccines are a form of “experimental gene therapy”

From Gorski (2021)

Ø  Black and White Disparities in Health Care

Ø  The continual spiking of racial hatred against all people of color groups in the U.S.

Ø  The potentials for mind control

Ø  Equating rapid vaccine production with an ineffective product.

Ø  Testing and sampling of the vaccine on limited numbers of African Americans and other people of color

Ø  Research voids concerning pregnant and nursing women, and babies in utero which is still limited.

Ø  Misinformation and conspiracy theories on the worldwide web suggesting that African Americans should be warry of the vaccine because of medicalized racism and tragedies like the Tuskegee Experiment, Henrietta Lax and mind control.


With all of these conflicting viewpoints and misinformation, Braden said it is easy to see why people are so frightened and unsure.

Filling the Knowledge Gaps
She said, “Everyone is now at a critical choice point. Just this week, Cleveland and northeast Ohio residents will have the opportunity to receive mass COVID-19 vaccinations at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center from March 17, 2021 through late May 2021. The plan offers Pfizer vaccines on week’s 1-6 to allow for the double doses of the vaccines and single doses of Johnson & Johnson through the close of the program. (WOIO Channel 19) These provisions offer Ohioans hope for health and survival. Despite progress on the vaccines’ production and distribution fronts, there is still a lack of public confidence. In her view, it seems to be driven by such perspectives as either “death by virus” vs. “death by anti-science.”

The United States’ Projected Immunization Timeline

Getting enrolled and registered to get vaccinated is important. A recent CDC update projects that by March 31 approximately 12% of all Americans will be vaccinated. It plans that 70% of the population will be completely vaccinated by October 12 and 100% by December 7. Though the way forward is still complicated by political differences, hopefully many individuals will have a change of heart and get vaccinated, wear masks, and keep a safe social distance until the end. 

Braden plans to share her knowledge and join the parade of the vaccinated to promote a safer society.


Gorski (2021) Antivaxxers misrepresent a study to falsely claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer | Science-Based Medicine

WOIO Chanel 19. Chris Anderson, (March 17, 2021) Mass COVID-19 vaccinations now underway for next 8 weeks at Cleveland’s Wolstein Center.


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