Community leaders say trust the science, get vaccinated

Trust is in short supply in America today. Our trust has been betrayed historically dating back to the founding of the country and betrayed recently by government policies that do not serve the best interest of all Americans.

Now we are being asked to trust a vaccine that was developed during one of the most bitterly partisan periods in our nation.

Here are statements from eight community leaders about their position on the vaccine: Trust. Get vaccinated.


Dr. Rahmat Na’Allah, UnityPoint Health

(She was among the first in her hospital to get the vaccine.)

We can trust this vaccine. It has been 10 years in the making. Since the Ebola scare, we have been developing the technological advancements to make a vaccine for the next pandemic.

In the Black community, we have a history of mistrust – from syphilis to forced sterilizations and experiments. This is a legitimate concern, but we can trust this vaccine. There have been no shenanigans, no political manipulations.

It is foolishness not to get this vaccine.

This vaccine is 94 to 95% effective in preventing severe COVID related disease and death and is likely to prevent a vaccinated person from transmitting the virus to another person. Why would we not want to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Getting vaccinated is the patriotic thing to do.


Andy Diaz, Caterpillar Inc. account sales manager and founder of Urban Acres

I encourage all residents to reflect on what we have endured this past year. The shut down in our lives, loss of commerce, community and loved ones; it’s been a true struggle. To reduce the impact of this virus, we must act as a community to do everything we can to make it possible to safely reopen our city. As a vaccine is released, I encourage everyone to have a conversation with your healthcare provider. Understand the risks and benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccination so that you can make an informed decision. Stopping a global pandemic requires us to use all tools available. Wearing a mask in public settings, practicing social distancing, and staying home when you feel sick will help our region stay open and keep our citizens healthy and employed.


Dr. Jamel SC Wright, president Eureka College

Based on what health and medical experts have said, this is a safe vaccine. After many months of our daily lives being affected by the complications of COVID-19, we have every reason to support getting vaccinated. Wearing masks, practicing social distancing and adhering to the CDC’s health and safety guidelines helped minimize the effects of COVID-19 at Eureka College this semester. Taking this critical next step could help not only our campus, but our entire community, curtail this pandemic and return to a state of normalcy. We should do everything in our power to protect the health, safety and well-being of our neighbors, colleagues, friends and loved ones.


Dr. Jamaluddin Amanullah, MD, Board Certified in Internal Medicine

I just got the first dose of my COVID-19 vaccination! I’m an Internist who works as a hospitalist. I am a hospital doctor who sees and treats COVID patients on a daily basis. It has been a very stressful last nine months on the frontlines –– physically, mentally as well as emotionally. I have seen far too many patients succumb to this raging pandemic –– both young and old, both with and without pre-existing medical conditions.

I strongly encourage all eligible people to do what is right – patriotically and morally – and to get vaccinated against this disease and do their part to help bring this dark chapter to a close, God willing. (Of course make sure that your doctor sees no contraindications for you getting this vaccine. )

I know there are some genuine concerns about this “rushed“ vaccine, but be assured that NO safety corners were cut in its development. The major factor which sped up this long process was the fact that the entire financial risk was totally removed from the pharmaceutical companies doing the research. The only true lingering concern is the small potential for any possible long-term side effects. But the way this vaccine works, the chances of that are indeed minimal. And bottom line is that we do not have the luxury to wait for a few years. Too many lives and livelihoods are on the line … so are YOU prepared to step up and do the right thing?

May the Almighty make this pandemic fade away completely and bring relief to the millions suffering physically, economically, mentally and emotionally.

Monica Hendrickson

Monica Hendrickson, Public Health Administrator, Peoria City/County Health Department

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have like wearing a mask, keeping a social distance when out in public, and washing our hands frequently. All these help reduce your chance of being exposed to disease or spreading disease to others. Now we have another tool –– a safe and effective one –– the COVID-19 vaccine.

This new vaccine works with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

It’s a recommendation I can give you to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. It may take several months for the vaccine to be available throughout our community, so be sure to get the vaccine when it is available to you. In the meantime keep practicing the three Ws –– Watch Your Distance, Wear a Mask, and Wash Your Hands. By using all of these tools we will boost the impact of getting this new COVID-19 vaccine to our community.

Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Clinical trials have shown the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccine manufacturers tested the vaccine across many groups of people from all walks of life. A vaccine used to take years to produce but is now being done in months and with no shortcuts on safety.
  • You will need two doses of the vaccine. All the trials show the vaccines helps prevent upwards of 90% of disease just a few weeks after your second vaccine.
  • If you’ve had a positive COVID-19 test, you still need a vaccine. Having the disease may offer some natural protection, known as immunity, but experts don’t know how long this protection lasts. Vaccination shows a much higher antibody response than you would get even after having the sickness.

So here is my advice after years of study in public health –– and even more importantly as a mother, daughter, wife, friend –– I will be rolling up my sleeve for the COVID-19 vaccine to protect myself and the ones I love. I ask you to do the same.

Rita Ali

Rita Ali, Peoria City councilwoman, at large; vice president, workforce and diversity, Illinois Central College

A vaccine at last! When the opportunity presents itself some time following disbursement to healthcare and other essential workers, I will certainly take the vaccine. I think it is the responsible thing for me to do as a parent and community leader. COVID-19 has been vicious. It has stolen the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout our nation and over a million worldwide. We must protect ourselves, our families and our future generations. We must enable our ability to return to an open society, free from this deadly virus. The vaccine is our strongest weapon to fight this disease and regain our mobility and livelihood. Let’s use it to our advantage!


Dr. Keith Knepp, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Development and approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel that many across the world have been waiting for. At UnityPoint Health, we are optimistic that many lives will be saved once vaccines are widely administered. Research shows these first vaccines to be highly effective and to have a good safety profile. We’re coordinating with public health officials and are excited to be able to provide it now to many of our frontline healthcare workers. We will really see a positive impact when enough becomes available for more and more people in the general public and for the remainder of our team members. I have no hesitation about receiving the vaccine myself and encourage my loved ones, our team members, patients and our community members to do so once they are eligible.

Chris Wade

Chris Wade, health chairman, NAACP Peoria Chapter

Given a history of mistreatment in research and medicine, it’s easy to see why Black and Indigenousness People of Color (BIPOC) communities often distrust vaccination. But the pandemic’s toll means we have to increase faith in it — and fast.

Low vaccination rates are not new in Black communities. During 2018-2019, for example, only 39% of Black adults received influenza vaccination versus 49% of White adults. Similarly, while 71% of White people 65 or older received a pneumococcal vaccine, only 56% of Black individuals did so in recent years. This is particularly concerning because Black patients suffer worse outcomes from these potentially dangerous infections. In contrast, a December 2020 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID vaccine monitor project found that 62% of African Americans say they will probably or definitely get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Nationally and locally, BIPOC must be intentionally engaged as a partner in the process of distributing and administering a COVID-19 vaccine, utilizing local trusted people to educate about it, and encourage uptake of the vaccine in communities which have been most impacted. And we must continue to implore BIPOC to continue to mask up, practice social distancing and wash hands.

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