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Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo

I, like millions of seniors, have been keeping tabs on the distribution of the new COVID-19 vaccines. We see videos of people sleeping overnight to be first in line for the vaccine, and of nursing home staff administering the shot to their patients.

Admittedly, I was hesitant when it came to vaccines, even though I’m married to a medical researcher. I know how careful he has been in his work over the years. I’ve also attended many conferences and watched presentations on medical subjects. I’ve seen how science works: How studies are designed, how participants are selected and how data is collected and analyzed.

So, I understood what President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meant when they said, “We have to respect the science.” When it comes to COVID-19, the science is clear: Until herd immunity has been achieved, we need to wear masks in public places, keep a safe distance from others and wash our hands.

New variants now make us more concerned. Yet, the current vaccines appear to protect or reduce the devastating effects of COVID-19 variants, so getting the vaccine still has merit, today.

Lest we forget, over a million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. And this number continues to rise. Hospitals are challenged. Emergency rooms have had lobby triages because there were no beds available. Elective surgeries and preventive care have sometimes been postponed. Health care providers and essential workers are exhausted.

Sometimes we must decide that our faith is stronger than our fears. I chose faith over fear and got my first COVID-19 shot in January and the second one last week. I have allergies and keep an Epi Pen nearby, just in case. But as an African American “senior-senior” and the primary caregiver for a spouse with chronic health conditions, my risk of infection and complications was among the highest, according to current statistics.

We must be vaccinated. We must lead the way in halting the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We must also be a part of the medical research that leads to things like vaccines. Because we’re all unique, if we’re not included, we may not see the same benefits. The All of Us research program is building one of the largest and most diverse health research databases in the world.

Please check out JoinAllofUs.org or contact the Milwaukee office at (414) 955-2689 or allofus@mcw.edu.

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