‘Do It Afraid’: Minnesota Mother Gets Vaccinated to Fulfill Son’s Birthday Wish
In SummaryMinnesota mother Sheletta Brundidge fulfilled her 15-year-old son's birthday wish by getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and now she's advocating for others like her in the Black community to do the same.
Sheletta Brundidge is a woman who wears many hats, including mother, caretaker, author, radio host and entrepreneur.
She also considers herself an activist in the Black community. The Minnesota native was active in the streets after George Floyd’s murder, and her activism spans many subjects, including promoting the success of Black businesses and autism awareness. What it did not include was advocating for the COVID-19 vaccine until recently.
Brundidge wasn’t just hesitant about the vaccine. She was adamant about not getting it. “I was not getting the vaccine. That was out of the question,” she said. Despite having a husband who works in the healthcare industry and is fully vaccinated, she had made up her mind.
The mother of 15-year-old Andrew, nine-year-old Brandon, eight-year-old Cameron and six-year-old Daniel has had many negative experiences with the American healthcare system. Three of her children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and she’s had to fight to get them the proper resources they need to thrive, but her mistrust began in childbirth. “Three of my pregnancies were very difficult and the doctors and nurses could care less whether I lived or died,” she alleged.
Her experience in childbirth is not uncommon among Black women. In fact, Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women, and the disparity increases with age. The negative experiences she had with the health care system continued. “I went to the emergency room recently, twitching on one side of my body uncontrollably,” she said. “My white blood count was low. The doctor told me to go home and Google it.”
When the medical community began marching into Black communities, saying they cared about the people disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, Brundidge wasn’t buying it. “Where were you when I almost died in the emergency room? Where were you when I almost died giving birth three times?” she asked. “Miss me on coming to my church now. I resented that,” she said.
Things changed for Brundidge when her son Andrew was turning 15 and decided on an untraditional birthday gift. Instead of accepting a birthday present worth $200 offered by his parents, he wanted his mother to get vaccinated. At first, Sheletta said she was not moved, citing that her parenting style was not a democracy, but as she listened to her son’s plea, her feelings shifted.
She said Andrew did his research and presented her with facts about why it was the right course of action. “He was like, ‘Mom, as a Black woman, you’re twice as likely to die from COVID if you get it.'” Andrew also spoke to her about the very health disparities that made her refuse it, saying that she may not get the same treatment for COVID-19 that white patients do.
Andrew’s passion sparked something in his mother. “I was paying attention,” she said. “I was very proud of him, but then one thing that he said touched my spirit. He said, ‘What’s going to happen to me and my three special needs siblings if you get COVID and die?'” Brundidge was left speechless. Her son also pointed out that as a community activist, she was not doing her part to protect the Black community from the virus and the myths about the vaccine.
After considering Andrew’s plea and reasoning, Brundidge received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on August 13 at a grocery store in her neighborhood. Not only was her son there, but Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan joined to amplify the Brundidge family message about the importance of getting vaccinated.
Brundidge used the opportunity to speak with Walz and Flanagan about the very real concerns the Black community has with the American healthcare system, and her vaccination was streamed live on Facebook as a message to her community.
She now has a stronger relationship with her son and a message for members of the Black community who are hesitant or adamant about not getting vaccinated like she was. “Do it anyway. Do it anyway,” she said. “We have to get vaccinated and do it afraid. The hospital is not filled with people who got the vaccine and got sick. The hospital is filled with people who got COVID. The graveyards are not filled with Black folks who got sick and died from taking the vaccine. The graveyard is filled with Black folks who got sick from COVID.” she said.
Brundidge received her second dose the first week in September, joining the rest of the 53% of the United States population that is fully vaccinated. The activist can now proudly advocate for the Black community in this area and she wants you to step past fear if it’s holding you back. “Get the damn vaccine,” she said. “Stop being hard-headed. Do it.”
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.