Seeds of Distrust: Black community leaders use roles to influence others to get COVID-19 vaccine

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Kneeling with head down in prayer, coach Evins Nicholson recites the Lord’s prayer to his Carolina Forest Sea Wolves team.

A solace reconnection with God for some, but a daily reaffirmation for Nicholson and his team.

“This is my ministry,” Nicholson said. “This is not my football team. When I say that I get chill bumps, this is everything to me.”

A four-year-old little league team understanding faith does not fumble.

“I’m not trying to give them a religion,” Nicholson said. “I just want them to know the basic foundation to live a good life, to live an honorable life.”

To do that, Nicholson chooses to lead by example.

He may wear a bright smile today, but COVID-19 is anything but sunshine for him.

“I don’t know about the disease, I just know it kills you,” Nicholson said. “I know that it harms you and I know that some people are not the same after.”

Though he’s never caught COVID, several members of his family have fallen victim. But even when vaccines became available, Nicholson still found himself on the fence.

“I was in the military for 20 years and I would say for the last 12-14 years I didn’t take the flu shot, I avoided the flu shot,” Nicholson explained.

But this time, it was different. He thought back on what he preaches to his players.

“You can protect yourself cause I don’t want you to get hurt,” Nicholson said to his player.

Nicholson had to do the same.

“I had to armor myself up for this situation,” Nicholson explained.

In March, like millions of other Americans, Nicholson rolled up his sleeve with the pain of the past vividly on his mind.

Nicholson’s second dose was scheduled for April 2, but sadly two days later, his dad James died.

“The thing about it is I waited to see,” Nicholson said emotionally. “I waited to see my father for a whole year, and he died before I could hug him.”

In hindsight, Nicholson said he shouldn’t have waited so long to get the vaccine, but stats show a large portion of Black adults plan to do just that.

A recent Kaiser survey shows 24% say they plan to wait and see, while 10% say they won’t get it at all.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals Black and the Hispanic/Latino communities are among the lowest getting vaccinated.

Dr. Winston McIver told me in an interview in December 2020, right as vaccines were being rolled out, that Black American juggled with death.

I sat down again with the Waccamaw Care licensed physician to get his thoughts nearly six months later.

“About 90 days ago, I got diagnosed with COVID-19,” McIver revealed.

But he felt like it was more than just the coronavirus, so McIver started to test for other diseases but got negative results every time.

“I knew something was wrong, even after all those negatives,” he said. “I was getting worse. I went and got a chest X-ray and the chest X-ray showed pneumonia in the right lower lobe on a Friday. By Monday, it was greater than 50% in both lungs and my oxygen was down in the 70s when it should be in the 90s.”

The physician recalled his colleagues concerns inside of the ICU, and some even reluctantly said their final goodbyes.

But McIver prevailed.

“I just want to first thank God and thank all of those people that reached out to me, prayed for me, reached out to my family asking about me. It’s much appreciated,” the Waccamaw Care doctor said in a Facebook video.

“Had days, I could’ve been intubated and died,” McIver said.

Now he is hopeful much could be learned from his experience.

“My messaging is to be adamant to not let your guard down,” he said. “I’m passing the word out to get vaccinated. Age, race, have no player in this. Everybody is fair game.”

Meanwhile, back on the football field, Nicholson is making a punt to his players. That no matter if it is your civic duty or in a split second on the gridiron, your life decisions not only impact yourself, but the people around you.

“You can make your own decision, but your own decision has to be about your life,” Nicholson said.

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