Dunbar pharmacist hopes community puts vaccine hesitancy aside

Published: August 3, 2021 5:06 PM EDT
Updated: August 3, 2021 7:38 PM EDT

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb in Florida. Lee Health as of Tuesday had 321 patients isolated in its hospitals and just 4% of its ICU beds available.

Its highest number of hospitalizations was 372 on July 20, 2020.

Are the high numbers driving people to get vaccinated?

Not yet, and certainly not like we saw when the vaccines first became available, but some people are finding the surge in cases a good reason to finally get a shot in the arm.

Jeremy Brown of Fort Myers said his experience fighting the virus finally convinced him it was time. Hesitancy and misinformation kept him from getting the vaccine before.

“I would say definitely just being a little ignorant and kind of following the trends, just the whole COVID hoax, kind of, and it wasn’t until I actually tested positive for COVID and missed out on a lot of business to where I decided COVID is real,” he said.

He caught the delta variant in mid-July and the symptoms knocked him off his feet.

“Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, like absolutely terrible, so something that I definitely don’t want to experience again.”

So he got the vaccine Tuesday and said he’s lucky he got the chance.

Data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Florida averaged 58 COVID-19 deaths a day last week, the highest seven-day average in the nation. California averaged 11 deaths a day, and New York state, just five.

“I think that’s what is changing the tide and the interest in the vaccination is because people are seeing their close relatives and friends and just loved ones that are being impacted by this negatively,” said Dr. Shadreka McIntosh, founder and owner of Sozo Wellness Pharmacy.

Brown hopes his COVID experience pushes others to get the vaccine.

“It was very, very important to me to just kind of be a mentor in the community and let people know that this is something serious and we do have something that could prevent it,” Brown said.

McIntosh is taking matters into her own hands and supplying the Dunbar community with a COVID-19 test and vaccine if they want it.

“I’m very passionate about this community and I always felt it necessary to get back to the place that has given so much to me to make me who I am,” McIntosh said.

Being from Dunbar has led people to trust McIntosh in administering the shots.

“People have said it from the moment when I asked and of course before giving the vaccination, ‘Do you have any questions?’, ‘No, I’m totally comfortable because you are giving it,'” McIntosh said.

McIntosh said she does not take that trust lightly. She feels the responsibility to use that trust to help her friends and neighbors fight COVID-19.

“It saddens me that a lot of the misinformation that’s out there, it actually seems to catch hold on to people before the truth does, so a lot of it is trying to really reverse those thoughts and make the scientific part of things makes sense to people,” McIntosh said.

The goal? Get everyone in Dunbar vaccinated. McIntosh said every shot in the arm, including Brown’s, is a step in the right direction.

“It actually feels like a small victory in the battle because it’s an overall war,” McIntosh said.

The good news is that Brown is not the only one who got his shot at Sozo Wellness Pharmacy on Tuesday. McIntosh said anyone can stop by and get the vaccine. They’re located at 3510 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Fort Myers.