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Councilmember’s Corner: Hope through the Vaccine

When I was younger my mom used to hold my hand, but yesterday I held hers as she received the vaccine. And then I was fortunate to receive my vaccine, too. 

Several of my family members, including my mom, have been hesitant about being vaccinated. They share the justified reluctance that many DC residents feel, especially seniors and people of color. In the past, racist and dangerous health practices have targeted vulnerable Black and Brown communities. And when DC began providing vaccines to seniors, these residents were discouraged by an inaccessible system that seemed to only serve the affluent and well-connected in our city. But my mom and I talked through it, did our homework, and went to Lamond Recreation Center yesterday to get our shot.

These honest conversations among families and between friends and neighbors will be important to overcome the pandemic.

The vaccine is safe and effective — not only in protecting oneself but also in preventing the spread of COVID to others. In that sense, being vaccinated is an act of love towards your community. But we need to meet people where they are and exercise patience and understanding to encourage everyone to take the leap.

Right now DC does not have enough vaccines for all who want them, but soon enough it will be the other way around. Whether we achieve herd immunity and remove COVID from daily life will depend on the work we do now to build trust and reach those around us.  

I struggled with my own decision on when to be vaccinated. I initially qualified in January under the District’s continuity of government plan, but I held off because at the time most seniors, educators, childcare staff, and other essential workers were still waiting for their turn.

I had also promised to get my shot in Ward 4 so my constituents could see that the vaccine is safe. While plenty of work still needs to be done, we have made progress in making DC’s vaccine distribution process more equitable, advocating for a better registration system, and expanding access to the vaccine. Knowing that inclusive communication is key, we worked with DC Health to send out mailers, share vaccine safety information, and translate the online registration portal in frequently spoken languages. Lamond Recreation Center, where I was vaccinated this week, was added as a vaccine site by DC Health after we raised concerns about long lines and crowded, unsafe conditions at Hattie Holmes.

Yesterday I stepped forward to be vaccinated because I believe it’s important for me as a Black woman and as a community leader to persuade my Ward 4 neighbors to do the same through the power of my example.

I also took this step so I can better serve our community. My role requires me to respond in person to emergencies, visit local businesses, and interact with constituents on a daily basis. Although I take every precaution possible by social distancing and wearing a mask, being immunized will add an extra layer of protection for all the people I encounter as your Councilmember.

So please take the opportunity to call that reluctant relative and check in with your friends and neighbors. Have that candid, supportive conversation that can make the difference. Offer to help them pre-register at vaccinate.dc.gov or by calling 1-855-363-0333.

You can even sign up to join me and my team as we work with community groups to get the word out to seniors and other residents in Ward 4. You will be surprised at how many people will take you up on the chance to pre-register after you take the time to talk with them.

The vaccine has injected hope that we will soon be able to beat this pandemic, revive our economy, and reunite our families and our communities. We can get there, but it will take all of us working together, hand in hand.