When the COVID-19 pandemic first disrupted life in early 2020, the news reported vaccinations would be a key component to returning to normalcy. Fast forward to December 2020, the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines were being received throughout the country.
Patty Young is a proud volunteer board member for the Mercy Health Foundation of Clark and Champaign Counties. Her sister, Debbie Woods, is president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Clark County, Springfield Section, and Patty is a member. They are also motivated by the GHW (Good Health Wins) program sponsored by NCNW which promotes the importance of vaccinations in the Black community.
Thus, both women never doubted they would be in line for their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they were eligible.
“I’ve seen first-hand the effects COVID-19 has had on my community, my friends and my family,” Patty says. “For me, my health and helping others with theirs is an obligation. It’s something I have always been passionate about.”
Dedication to health care is nothing new to Patty and her sister. Sixteen years ago, they founded Sisters United for Prevention. This coalition of African American women focuses on promoting cancer awareness, education, screenings and more to help others understand the significance of early-stage diagnosis.
As more and more Ohioans became eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in spring of 2021, pockets of our communities remain hesitant to sign up and get their shot. Patty knew her business, Young Hair, Inc., had a chance to help public health officials by connecting people with shots while addressing the reasons behind some of the African American community’s hesitation.
“I had a great-grandson born during the pandemic,” Patty shares about her reason for getting vaccinated. “For me, I was going to do whatever I needed so I could hold him, kiss him and love on him the first chance that I could. We’ve all suffered and for me, I believed the science. More importantly, listened to my heart that told me this was what in needed to do.”
Patty knew she couldn’t help others alone, especially while running a business that was also focused on keeping clients safe. That is when Debbie stepped in to help out.
“Like Patty, I knew what was needed to be done,” Debbie says. “Beginning in late February 2021, I began having conversations, fielding questions and helping to schedule clients and families through the Clark County Health District.”
Three weeks into March 2021, Debbie had scheduled more than 260 appointments from family, friends, clients and others throughout Clark County that she believes may not have signed up otherwise.
“Naturally, one of the first questions I would get is if I have received mine,” Debbie says with a smile. “I always say of course, let me tell you how it felt and what you can expect. It’s a story on repeat but one that will never get old for me.”
Fast forward one year later, Debbie and Patty estimate they have helped schedule 400 vaccine appointments thus far. This includes people coming back to receive their COVID-19 booster shots.
“I got my first booster shot in October of 2021 and just got my second one this month. Patty has gotten both of hers too,” Debbie shares. “People should get their boosters because of the different strands of COVID-19. We need to be on top of it to be safe.”
It is currently Minority Health Month and this year’s theme is “Give Your Community a Boost!” with a focus on how the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters are the strongest tools we have to end a pandemic that has disproportionally affected communities of color. While this cause is obviously very dear to Debbie’s heart, she recognizes that minority health is a much larger topic.
“Minority health means identifying all diseases that are prevalent in the African American community,” she says. “This means addressing nutrition, environment, hereditary and lifestyle while also addressing education and awareness. Health concerns that I feel disproportionately affect people of color include heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes and cancer.”
While the sisters continue to educate and help people make COVID-19 vaccine appointments, they also make sure to take time fielding follow-up calls from people after they have received their vaccine.
“They are grateful, they feel blessed and always share personal stories of either loved ones they lost from COVID-19 or their personal diagnosis,” Debbie shares.
Both Patty and Debbie agreed that in their community, it comes down to trust, a lack of understanding and an opportunity to educate.
“Many African Americans pull from experiences in their past. But today, being a board member for the Mercy Health Foundation, I’ve had an insider look at the effects COVID-19 has had,” Patty says. “I want people to know it is real, it is serious and utilizing the vaccine and booster shots is the only way for us to get through this.”
Stay updated on what Mercy Health is doing related to the COVID-19 vaccine.