By Daniel Laplaza
People have chosen a variety of ways to reach out to their community to encourage them to get vaccinated. Whether it was sharing personal stories, providing a ride or booking an appointment, neighbors have stepped up. Every day, vaccine efforts on the local, state and federal level are inching closer to a fully vaccinated and boosted population.
As part of our own vaccine outreach efforts, Heidi Howard, who has been a featured Epicenter artist, offered to paint a few of our community members in their signature portrait style. Howard and their family were able to get vaccinated through Epicenter’s vaccine registration system at the beginning of vaccine rollout when appointments were difficult to schedule. They now wanted to pay it forward by painting these portraits that could be used to showcase vaccine success stories.
The structure of each of Howard’s portraits is based on the color, feelings, style and images inherent to the sitter. This time, that structure reflects each sitter’s vaccination experience. They asked each person what helped them make their decision to get vaccinated, the impact they felt it has had on them and on their loved ones, and what they would say to those who are hesitant to get vaccinated.
Abigail Farnum, Hollis
Abigail Farnum got vaccinated to prevent passing the Covid-19 virus to her mother who has diabetes and hypertension. Despite the ebbs and flows of variant surges in the city, both Farnum and her mother, who is also vaccinated, managed to stay safe from the virus. She attributes much of that to having their shots.
Being vaccinated also meant that Farnum could go from lockdown in her Queens Village home to watching professional bull riding at Madison Square Garden. She wants to return to normalcy and shares that her normalcy means going out. “I want to go to the church, go to the cinema, go to the restaurant. And if that’s what you want, you need to do something about it,” she said. “And the best thing to do right now is to get vaccinated.”
Kathy Pringle, Queens Village
Growing up in a time when polio killed many of her friends, Kathy Pringle was taking no chances with Covid-19. “Once a virus is broken out, I’ll be the first one in line to take a vaccine.” She said losing your family and friends to a virus can open your eyes to the safety of being vaccinated.
Pringle got her shots to protect herself but also to do her part in preventing the further spread of Covid-19 and potential death of others. She encourages those who are hesitant to get vaccinated in order to spare your loved ones the tremendous grief that comes from loss: “Death is too high to weigh a vaccine. Take the vaccine. Save lives.”
There were two reasons why Devi says she got the Covid-19 vaccine: she wanted to keep herself and family safe, and she did not want to feel like a burden to others. Being vaccinated allowed her to attend family gatherings and everyone was able to enjoy each other’s company yet still stay safe.
Devi was hesitant to get vaccinated at first but later felt glad she did. To others who are currently hesitant, she said it’s worth it to go get vaccinated. “Just go do it. It will be nothing but a positive experience for you,” she said.
Share stories not stats
If you are vaccinated for Covid-19, sharing your own story with your neighbors, friends or family members who may be vaccine hesitant may be more helpful than you may think. People who are unvaccinated are often challenged with statistics or data, which can turn folks on the defensive and make them less likely to listen at all. On the other hand, sharing your own experience of getting vaccinated can meet people on a personal level, potentially inspiring, energizing and/or moving people to action.
We’ll be sharing more stories like this so keep an eye out. Do you have your own experience you’d like us to know about? You can share it here or email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This work was made possible by the Fund for Public Health in NYC and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to focus on Queens Village, one of the least vaccinated zip codes in the borough.