Pictured (from left) are Mason McCullough, Lisa Tate, and Miles Atkins, who are planning a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for March 27 at Highland Acres Church of Christ.

Special to Iredell Free News

As the number of vaccinated individuals continues to rise, there is a growing pressure on African-American communities around the nation to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. According to a recent report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), approximately 1.9 million individuals in North Carolina have been at least partially vaccinated as of March 14. Of those, 74.9 percent have been white, compared to only 16.5 percent African-American.

To address this disparity, Mason McCullough, founder of Healthy Generations; Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins; and Lisa Tate, a nurse with Iredell Health System, have planned a community vaccination event specifically geared toward African-American residents.

It’s an important step since COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African-American communities for various reasons, including comorbidities, absence of regular health care, high-risk occupations, and more.

Cherie Smith

“Currently, this vaccine is our only defense to protect ourselves and our family. It comes down to a choice between vaccine and death,” said Cherie Smith, vice president of Nursing and Patient Care at Iredell Health System. Smith, who is African-American, was vaccinated in December.

A long history of racial disparities in the nation’s healthcare systems has created immense distrust of the industry in African-American communities, and many are hesitant to be vaccinated. According to Tate, in addition to the historical aspects, most of the anxiety toward receiving the vaccine stems from the fear of possible reactions and side effects.

McCullough admitted he was apprehensive about being vaccinated.

“I was hesitant myself until I found out that I had friends who contracted COVID-19 and passed away. I had two friends pass away in one day, and it was devastating. Who am I to be hesitant to receive the vaccine?” he said.

McCullough has now received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and, other than a slightly sore arm, he experienced no negative side effects. He hopes sharing his experience, as well as the positive experiences of so many others, will help persuade African-Americans to be vaccinated.

As of March 15, Iredell Health System has vaccinated approximately 28,000 people in Iredell and surrounding counties, with very few individuals having immediate reactions. In the rare event that there is an immediate reaction, clinical professionals are available to provide medical assistance according to each person’s needs. 

According to the NCDHHS, temporary reactions after receiving the vaccine may include a sore arm, headache or feeling tired and achy, and a fever. However, temporary reactions are completely normal after receiving a vaccine, and are a sign that your body is working to build protection against possible future infections. If needed, ibuprofen or Tylenol can be taken after receiving your shot to help ease any discomfort from these temporary reactions.

When asked what he would say to those who are hesitant to receive the vaccine because of possible side effects, McCullough said, “It’s better to be safe now than sorry later.”

According to Smith, it is important to make informed decisions from reputable sources regarding trust in the vaccine, such as the NCDHHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’d like to point out that African-American scientists were involved in the creation of the vaccine, and many African-Americans volunteered to participate in the clinical trials of the vaccines with much success,” said Smith. “Early on I had my own concerns, but the more I learned, the more I knew it was the right thing to do.”

When and were is the vaccine clinic?

The vaccine clinic will take place on March 27 at the Highland Acres Church of Christ parking lot from 9 to 11 a.m. The address is 1301 McLaughlin Street, Statesville, NC 28677.

Who is eligible?

If you meet any of the following criteria, you are eligible for a vaccine:
1. A healthcare worker or a long-term care employee/resident;
2. Individuals age 65 years of age or older;
3. A frontline essential worker;
4. Individuals with a high-risk medical condition that increases the risk of severe disease from COVID-19 such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation.

How can I sign up?

You can sign up for the clinic one of four ways:
1. Email your first and last name, date of birth, phone number, street address, gender, and race to healthygenerations72@gmail.com.
2. Call either 980-226-6409 or 704-872-3301.
3. If you received an information card in the mail, you can complete the card, apply a stamp, and mail it.
4. If you received an information card in the mail, you can complete the card and mail it in an envelope to the address listed on the back of the card.

Have more questions?

If you have more questions or concerns regarding the clinic, you can call 980-226-6409 or 704- 872-3301.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,700 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.

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