Essential Workers #GetVaccinated

Laura Morand, Local 2627 President

I got the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Feb 12. I could have gotten it a month early as a Fire Department employee, but I was hesitant. 

I developed a lack of trust in the medical system after I was misdiagnosed on March 25, 2020. That day I was rushed by ambulance to Franklin Hospital in Long Island. I had a 101 fever and difficulty breathing. I was weak, achy and dizzy. I was fast-tracked to see a doctor but he denied me a COVID test and did not check me out thoroughly despite my symptoms. He gave me two Tylenol and an asthma pump and sent me home.

I believe that if I were a Caucasian woman, doctors would have tested me for everything including COVID-19. Instead, they put on a Band-Aid and sent me back to work. The way I was treated hurt me but I was too weak to do anything about it. 

When I didn’t get any better, I called our executive director Henry Garrido. He sent me to Queens General Hospital. My daughter drove me. I saw Dr. Holness, a Black doctor, who ordered an x-ray. It confirmed that I had pneumonia and he admitted me. 

Then a White doctor intervened, gave me a prescription for Hydroxychloroquine and sent me home. I got worse. I thought I was going to die. What saved me is my oxygen levels did not go below 90. 

I had COVID-19. My recovery was long and I still have lingering effects from the virus. 

On New Year’s Day 2021, I learned that my mother had COVID. Her home health aide tested positive. My mother and my sister live together in the Bronx. They followed protocol and stayed in, but they still got COVID. It was brought into their home. My mom got worse and was hospitalized for several weeks. She prayed to die. She did not believe she would recover. My sister also was also hospitalized. 

Then there was a fire in the apartment across the hall from them. Smoke damage made it impossible to live in their apartment.  My brother in Maryland also was admitted to intensive care due to COVID-19. For me 2020 and 2021 have been very rough. Fortunately, we all survived and are COVID-19-free. 

The pandemic wreaked havoc and destroyed lives. President Trump let this happen. The pandemic was a horrible life-changing ordeal that I shared in an interview on the 93.5FM radio show Immigration and Me. I also shared my experience on my Facebook page. COVID-19 hit my community–and New York’s Black and Latino communities– very hard. People are protesting because America does not value our lives. 

I took the Moderna vaccine because I had such a bad experience with COVID-19. I experienced blatant discrimination as a Black woman and this was not the first time. I had to insist on quality medical treatment. And still the White medical establishment did not believe me or take my symptoms and my health seriously. My experience confirmed to me that Black women are not treated with the same level of care and compassion. It is one of the many disparities and injustices the pandemic revealed. 

I was skeptical about the vaccine but my view changed when I saw White people coming from the suburbs into Black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Brooklyn, to get the vaccine. I knew they would not put themselves in danger. 

Being vaccinated is a personal decision. There are many reasons for concern. I did my research and got the vaccine through my job. The FDNY is vaccinating employees, retirees and family members of employees. My husband took the Pfizer vaccine a week after me. He watched me suffer with COVID-19 and was scared I was going to die. We want to be safe so we are both vaccinated. Although the COVID-19 shots made me weak and sick because I had COVID, it was nothing like having coronavirus. 

After more than a year, in April I finally got to see my mom for the first time. She is in a nursing home in Elmhurst. I was able to visit her because I am vaccinated. 

As told to DIANE S. WILLIAMS

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