The message to get vaccinated in order to deal with the COVID-19 virus has been loud and clear. But not everyone hears it or wants to get one.
WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with a Washtenaw County Health Department employee, Nivean Farha, who was initially hesitant, but finally did get vaccinated and shares her "vaccination hesitation journey."
Lisa Barry: [00:00:00] The message to get vaccinated in order to deal with the COVID-19 virus has been loud and clear, but not everyone hears it or wants to get one. This is Lisa Barry. And, for many, it's an important message that bears repeating. And there's a Washtenaw County Health Department worker who shared in that hesitation but finally did get vaccinated and is joining us now to share her vaccination hesitation journey. Welcome, Nivean Farha. Thanks for talking to us.
Nivean Farha: [00:00:27] Thank you so much for having me on board.
Lisa Barry: [00:00:29] Where do you work? And tell us a little bit about yourself.
Nivean Farha: [00:00:33] So, I am a mother of three. I work for the Washtenaw County Health Department, and I live in Ypsilanti.
Lisa Barry: [00:00:40] Is your job to talk to people about getting vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:00:43] So, part of my job is we're definitely trying to do a lot of outreach, reaching families, multicultural families, you know, just reaching everyone. I speak Arabic and English, so it kind of helps to reach more people with language barriers.
Lisa Barry: [00:00:57] Yet, I understand you were having these conversations, and you yourself were not vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:01:02] I wasn't. So, in the beginning with, you know, I was fully transparent in the sense of, you know, we're taking the training we're doing. You know, we're trying to reach families and people come out and get vaccinated. But I personally wasn't convinced that it was right for me, and I didn't take it in the beginning. I did a little bit more research. I just wanted to feel like I was at ease. But weighing in the pros and cons, I finally decided to take it. But it wasn't my, you know, it wasn't first thing we decided everyone, you know, we had a choice. We had a chance to say, you know, did we want to take it in the beginning? We, you know, I didn't want it at all. I wasn't thinking that it was right for me. I didn't believe that, you know, there's just no way they're just putting, like, crazy things inside of us. And then, I did a little more research. I know more people that did get vaccinated. I checked out. I waited for their symptoms. I wait to see, you know, and even close family members. I waited for them to see their reactions, their body reactions, and how they went out for the first dose. Then the second dose who had COVID and then got back to those who didn't have it and got vaccinated. And, you know, just kind of doing my own personal research, and then, for me, took it down a little personally, more for me, just because of losing my grandfather in November before COVID hit us. And then not being able to see my grandparents and my other set of grandparents and my grandmother and not being able to spend those moments because, as they get older, you know, time is of essence. I really said, you know, that it was mandatory for us to be wanting to see the grandparents. We really need to get vaccinated. So it was, at that point, I said I have to. My, like, my mother-in-law and my grandparents, all of it. It was all..anyone. And they're all older. They're all over 70. So, they're at risk in general for any kind of sickness.
Lisa Barry: [00:02:55] When did you actually get vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:02:58] I got vaccinated in April? April.
Lisa Barry: [00:03:03] But it took you a while to decide, even though you work for the Washtenaw County Health Department. Took you a while.
Nivean Farha: [00:03:09] It did, because I wasn't convinced truthfully that it was going to be right for me. I was like, since when are you know, like, you know, I wasn't content with, like, OK, what ingredients? I want to know more information. So, while taking those surveys, I was serving my own opinion. I was saying, you know, what will maybe we need to know because I can't promote something if I don't believe in it fully. So, if people were to ask me when I was "You guys to get vaccinated, signing them up for those vaccinations?" They would ask me, "Did you get vaccinated?" And not yet. No, sorry. I'm still waiting until debating it." And so when I got vaccinated, I told them. So this is my story. This is I didn't believe in at the beginning. But then, as I thought, more and more people in the less symptoms they were reacting to and whatnot. And then, for me, it was just really those older grandparents and being able to spend that quality time with them. It was I'm willing to do it if this was what it takes.
Lisa Barry: [00:04:02] Do you feel a calling now to share that message with other people, to let them know that it is important to get vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:04:08] It is. I mean, I feel like it's just, you know, everyone has those fears inside of them. And a lot of my family members didn't do it. They waited. They waited for a lot more people to get more serious. Their body reaction, seeing how, you know, they would react after the first or second dose and whatnot. Well, I feel like, with this new Delta variants, and the new ones coming out more and more as older people and I mean just this generation, we don't have the greatest immune system, you know, so, you know, taking that vaccine will definitely...I feel like I'm more comfortable working because all of my work is outreach. So, I feel more comfortable being able to go out to the community and not have that fear of bringing back any of those sicknesses back to my children, back to my grandparents, back to my mother-in-law and all who are those are, you know, at risk.
Lisa Barry: [00:05:02] Do you feel like your experience where you were first hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but did end up getting one? Do you think you have a message to share in a people or a story to tell that might change their mind if they're not vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:05:17] I mean, it's...look, I took it and I'll be honest, I always tell people I didn't have a single reaction. It would if it was just, like, I normally react after the flu shot that we take here. But I didn't. I didn't react to anything. It was really easy. And I felt like throughout this entire summer, I've been able to really go out and feel so comfortable and not having to worry about the Delta variant and not having, you know, just a sense of ease that are, you know, that I am content with taking I took the vaccine. Now I've done my part. Now it's your turn because we're getting that much closer to, you know, being done with COVID and being able to see our loved ones. And not having any more barriers.
Lisa Barry: [00:06:02] As a Washtenaw County Health Department worker, are you still encountering people who don't want to get vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:06:08] Of course. Every day.
Lisa Barry: [00:06:10] Every day?
Nivean Farha: [00:06:11] Every day.
Lisa Barry: [00:06:12] And what message do you want to share with them or anyone listening right now who is hesitant?
Nivean Farha: [00:06:17] You know, just if you even have one single person in your life that you truly love and have you been able to due to COVID, just do it for their sake. I feel like if you just take that little bit of, you know, it's going to you're going to fear it, but it's the outcome. It's so worth it. You know, just to be able to, like, really go and hug those loved ones that you haven't seen for so long and being able to not worry about getting sick, not having that severe reaction, not being having to be hospitalized is a major factor really.
Lisa Barry: [00:06:56] Since you're encountering it every day, why are people telling you they don't want to get vaccinated?
Nivean Farha: [00:07:02] It's that trust. It's still the trust that we're trying to build. And even though I'm a community member and a lot of people trust my opinion, it's still hard. You still have to kind of, like, overcome that this is really they have their best interests for me.
Lisa Barry: [00:07:18] Are you finding people who have been hesitant are listening and you can change their minds, or do you get the feeling some people are just digging their heels in even deeper?
Nivean Farha: [00:07:27] So, it's a 50/50. I do...some people, they're like, "OK. You know what. We're coming in." And I've had a quite amount of friends that, in the beginning, they were like, "You're crazy. You're doing this. You're going to be their guinea pig." And then, a couple of months, you know, over the summer, they're like, "OK, we're coming in. Sign us up." And, you know, I'm there. I'm there for them, I'm there while they're taking the shot, you know, just giving them a sense of is that they're doing the right thing. And then you get some people that are just like, "Not yet." And it's, like, it's OK. So, within time, you know, some people turn around. It takes..some people it takes some time to be convinced that this is the right thing.
Lisa Barry: [00:08:07] Are you seeing some cultural reasons behind these hesitations?
Nivean Farha: [00:08:12] No, nothing cultural, really. It's that mindset of, you know, and these are some of them for the younger ones. I'll tell you, for those younger guys that are like 25 and 30 and they're like, "You know what? Like, I've never taken a flu shot. Why am I gonna take this? You know, I'm done with all the vaccines. This is just crazy." And then you'll get some of the older ones who are like, "I've been doing good all of my life. I don't need it. We'll just stick with, you know, our natural remedies." And then it's like, "OK, but this will just help you a little more, since this is becoming so severe. This can, like, this is turning that cold into something where you're going to be hospitalized for." So if it's not for you and, you know, if you're really healthy, you're probably not going to have that major reaction, you know, but everybody's always different. But, for the most part, we haven't seen major reactions. And so, you're doing it not for only for you. So it's always reminding them that it's not always for them. You know, that person themselves. It's for everyone around them. It's for their children. It's for their grandparents. It's for their parents. It's for the neighbor. It's really doing your part. If you're part of a community., you'll feel that, like, I can do it. It's part of my community, I'll definitely go for it.
Lisa Barry: [00:09:26] What do you want to say to those listening who haven't been vaccinated? And what can you say to them that might change their mind?
Nivean Farha: [00:09:35] If it's fear that is stopping you guys from getting the vaccine, by all means, maybe we could sit down and chat about it, but try thinking about all the loved ones you haven't seen the past two years. This crazy pandemic, let's take it over. It's just one shot away. We're one shot away from becoming getting closer to where we were before the pandemic and living our life again,
Lisa Barry: [00:10:03] Nivean Farha, Washtenaw County Public Health Department worker, mother, and Ypsilanti resident. Thank you so much for sharing and being honest with us, sharing your journey here with us on Eighty Nine One WEMU.
Nivean Farha: [00:10:16] Thank you. It was a pleasure speaking to all of you.
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