DOVER — Kendrick Hicks wanted to be on campus for his final year at Delaware State University.
The rising senior and aspiring recording artist has goals he wants to achieve as he enters adulthood. To achieve his goals, he said he knew he had to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help return to a pre-pandemic way of life.
“If you want to get rid of this blockade, we got to blow it away,” Mr. Hicks said.
In an age demographic where Delaware has not seen as much interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr. Hicks said he was hoping to help change that. He was one of several panelists on a Zoom last week hosted by the Kent County Coalition for Vaccines for the Black and Brown Communities.
Another panelist, Dr. Shauna McIntosh, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Saint Francis Women’s Center in Wilmington, emphasized the important of vaccines to prevent the virus from mutating and forming new variants. COVID-19 has already formed several variants, including alpha and delta, which research has shown are more transmissible versions of the virus.
“When the virus runs out of hosts, it will go away,” Dr. McIntosh said. “So that person who won’t get vaccinated is part of the problem. That’s the bottom line. That’s the science.”
“I know from history what vaccines have done for us,” she added. “Probably none of us know someone who has had polio. Younger people probably don’t even know someone who has had chickenpox. When do you hear about German measles? That’s all because of vaccines. So I understand and respect the power of vaccines.”
Dr, McIntosh joined the panel after a 30-hour work shift.
“I’m here because it’s so important and we don’t care how tired we are and how many times we give this message because our goal is to not let our people get left behind,” she said. “If we are out there as spokespeople and are touching the hearts and minds and souls of our people, then I can go to bed knowing I changed something in the world for the better. This is such a serious issue, we cannot afford to be left behind.”
Dr. Joan Coker, an otolaryngologist with ENT & Allergy of Delaware, and Dr. Marshala Lee, a family medicine specialist at ChristianaCare, also joined the Zoom, marketed as a “Real Talk,” as the three medical experts helped dispel any myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and answered questions from the audience.
Dr. Coker broke down common misconceptions regarding the vaccine. She said there is no evidence it causes infertility in humans and gave a reminder since the vaccine is a mRNA vaccine, no one can contract COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine.
She added the vaccine will not change anyone’s DNA.
“No one is trying to change you in any way,” Dr. Coker said. “If we thought or knew that was the case we would not be on this Zoom.”
Another myth Dr. Coker has heard from concerned individuals is the vaccine inserts a tracking device into the patient’s arm.
“You won’t leave home without your phone so the government knows exactly where you are at all times unless your phone has died,” Dr. Coker said. “So to spend money in the midst of a pandemic to track someone who is easily trackable is just outrageous and did not happen.”
The 18-34-year-old age demographic has lagged behind the rest of the state’s population in terms of receiving the vaccine — 43.7% have gotten at least one dose. The 12-17-year-old age group has 40.1% of its population with one dose despite not being as eligible for the vaccine as long as the older age groups.
Of Delaware’s adult population, 71.2% have received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The three medical professionals on the panel hoped their presentation could encourage anyone who has been hesitant about the vaccines that they are safe and effective.
“The only thing between the vaccine and people who are unvaccinated is bad, bad, bad information,” Dr. McIntosh said. “It is no longer an access issue. We have it. It is free and we have leveled so many playing fields. I just wish people would be directed to healthcare leaders and leaders in the community for information and not what they’re hearing on the internet.”
“You’ve got to do your homework and you’ve got to be committed to the science instead of all the propaganda out there,” Dr. Coker said.
CBS3 Philadelphia news anchor Ukee Washington filmed a short video for the panel. Mr. Washington, who grew up in Dover, said he and his family, including his 96-year-old mother, received their vaccines because they were convinced by the science presented by trusted medical professionals.
“What we all have in common is the desire to spend time with our loved ones, travel, eat out and enjoy a life free from fear,” Mr. Washington said. “If we work together to increase the number of people who are fully vaccinated and follow safety guidelines, we create a safer environment for our community and our state. That’s just not me talking, that’s the science.”