As a health care worker, I was one of the early recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine. As I received the vaccine and the surrounding staff applauded, I felt tears streaming down my face. The nurse who painlessly administered the vaccine said: “Go ahead and cry. You are making history.”
My tears represented a mix of emotions: joy, relief and a sense that we will soon be able to exhale as a society. I also felt ashamed because many others at greater risk have not yet received the vaccination, including members of the Latinx community who have been on the front lines during the pandemic.
They have provided care to others, delivered critical goods and staffed essential businesses. Their jobs demanded that they work outside their homes, increasing the risk of infection for them and their family members because they often shared a home with extended family.
If one of them becomes ill, other members of the household should stay home and quarantine for 10 days to ensure they don’t have the virus and infect others. Few can afford that.
In L.A. County alone, the Latinx infection rate is 4.5 times the rate for white residents. With over 9,000 COVID-19-related deaths across L.A. County, almost half have been Latinx.
I am not as famous as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or others prominent members of the Latinx community who have received the vaccine. But as the director of Health Education at Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center serving people in need, I wanted to share my experience and encourage others to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Worries about the speed of vaccines’ development or that the vaccines might cause COVID-19 are unfounded. It took years of research to develop the technology on which these vaccines are based, and these vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve experienced no real side effects from my first inoculation, and I look forward to receiving the next.
While we wait for everyone to get immunized, I will continue to take all the necessary precautions to prevent infection and hope you will do the same: Please wear face coverings in public. Stay home when you are ill. Wash your hands and avoid mingling with family and friends who don’t live in the same house.
Together, we can protect ourselves and our families – and we can make sure everyone is here to help us celebrate future birthdays, holidays and other events for many years to come.
When the vaccine becomes more widely available, I hope you will join me in making history by getting immunized. Protecting ourselves is essential to the health of our families and the future of all of us.
Rigoberto Garcia Director of Health Education Venice Family Clinic