Featured photo-Photo credit: Sylvia Jones
Written by Tanya Terry
Christel Drew and Bernard Drew are a local couple who have no regrets about getting vaccinated, despite some side effects they experienced. They don’t push their beliefs on others, but they each feel strongly that getting fully vaccinated, as well as boosted, was the right thing to do. Both the Drews are 41 years old. Bernard Drew works as a small business consultant and serves as a pastor of West Court Street Church of God. Christel Drew is the principal at Madison Academy High School.
The couple recently told the Courier about the emotions they experienced when they first started learning about COVID-19.
“It was a little, of course scary at the beginning,” said Christel Drew. “Our reaction was to shelter in place. We were very strict at the onset. I was wiping down all the groceries before I brought them in the house. I had a table set out in the garage.”
Christel Drew said even when the pandemic first hit, they knew lots of people kept dying, and more information came, information was inconsistent.
“It still is,” she added. “We’re still getting to know this virus that continues to replicate itself.”
Bernard Drew said when a family friend informed them their father died due to COVID, as well when the family friend’s long term, “really close employee” they had all known for many years through business died due to COVID within a short time frame, things really started hitting close to home for him.
“That was devastating,” he expressed. “Then a fraternity brother who was doing so much and making such an impact-when he died-that was a shock to the system.”
Drew’s fraternity brother, Marlowe Stoudamire was about his age.
From that point on, Bernard Drew knew “no one is exempt from exposure.”
When the Genesee Intermediate School District offered all school employees to get the vaccine, Christel Drew took advantage of the offer in February 2021.
“It was all around me,” she said of the virus.
She received the Moderna vaccine, which she said made her tired. In fact, both the Drews had two doses of the Moderna vaccine, with Bernard Drew receiving his first dose a month later.
“I had a background in engineering, and I spent some time working at a pharmaceutical company that did a lot of research and development,” he explained. “I had background knowing how long it traditionally takes the FDA to a new vaccine or pharmaceutical. So, candidly I was a little leery early on. However, functionally, just humanity, I thought “if this is an option to keep myself healthy and preserve and help other people-just go ahead and do it.’”
Church services continued to be held where the Drews attend church, but masks were worn and social distancing was practiced.
Ultimately, according to Bernard Drew, it was his wife’s role in the school that drove his decision.
“I thought ‘God forbid I bring some sort of exposure to our house that causes her to compromise her capacity to serve her kids,” he said.
Both the Drews have received their boosters, along with their two kids, in December 2021. Bernard Drew experienced chills for the first day or two and was off work for several days. His wife had a swollen lymph node under her arm, which she learned was not an uncommon side effect.
The couple informed the Courier their daughter had actually contracted COVID in January 2021.
“I definitely think being vaccinated has helped, especially on certain occasions,” Christel Drew shared. “I had two occasions where I felt COVID was trying to get me, but my vaccine was working. I started to experience all the COVID symptoms, but they were gone within 24 hours.”
Christel Drew said she feels some people are “stuck in their ways and their conspiracy theories.”
She explained: “Other people I do tell ‘I’m vaccinated and I’m boosted. For the sake of everybody, just do it.”’
Bernard Drew also “operates in a lot of different circles” and comes in contact with people who are opposed about both the vaccine and skeptical about the nature of the virus. He said unfortunately, most of these people have caught COVID “in the midst of their apathy towards the warning” and are now at least “a little more empathetic. “
“Science is science, and look at the data,” Christel Drew said. “Go with the facts in terms of making a decision.”
“What I would say to others is I recently had a first cousin who her children’s father who she has two small children with and they’re in their early to mid 30s-he passed from COVID-not wanting to make the choice for his family,” Bernard Drew said. “I don’t demonize him in making that statement. Surely I think if he would have known it would come to this, he would have made a different choice. But, reality is now he’s got two small children and he’s gone.”
According to national data provided by kff.org, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy, over the course of the vaccination rollout, differences between vaccination rates for Black, Hispanic and White people have narrowed. According to Michigan.gov, the percent of vaccinated people who are Black has more than tripled between the first three weeks and the last week of vaccination (0.5% to 3.8%), but the proportion of vaccinated adults 16 and older who are Black is far lower than the proportion of Black residents in Michigan. (The site also reports that according to data reported as of Feb. 22, 1,252,497 Michigan residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and 547,163 of those individuals do not have race information recorded.) The percent of each population that is vaccinated varies by race. White Michiganders having the highest initiation and completion rates (7.9% and 4.7%), followed by American Indian or Alaskan Native (5.4% and 2.8%, respectively), Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders (5.0% and 3.6%) and Black or African American residents (4.1% and 1.6%).
A booster dose is currently recommended for all individuals aged 12+ by the CDC. For information on where to get first, second third, and booster doses of the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccinations locally, visit https://www.gchd.us/vaccinescheduler/.