Published: May 5, 2021
By: Matthew Bennett | LSU Manship School News Service
“It’s the flu to the 12th power,” remarked Ivory Payne, a Baton Rouge publisher who is urging Black Louisianans to get COVID-19 vaccines.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Payne said, describing his own experience with the virus in early February. “I think the shortness of breath was the worst thing. It was a terrible experience.”
After his doctors told him to go home and quarantine for 14 days, Payne, 60, found that his fight against the respiratory illness had just begun. He said that after a difficult two weeks in isolation, his condition only got worse.
Payne described a litany of troubling COVID-19 symptoms, including not being able to smell or taste, body aches that prevented him from lifting everyday items and nausea. He spent three distressed weeks in the hospital, where he was forced to consider his chances of survival.
Payne is doing better now, but still has some fatigue as he cautiously returns to work as publisher of the BR Weekly Press, a newspaper for the Black community. His takeaway from his experience is the importance of vaccinations.
He wishes he had been eligible for a vaccine before he was hit by the virus, and he wants to urge Black residents to trust in the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
“I believe the African-American community has been hit the hardest, because of poor health care,” Payne said. “And just lack of education about the vaccine and the illness itself.”
‘Everyone has to be speaking the same message’
As of April 26, Blacks accounted for 28% of COVID-19 vaccinations in Louisiana, while making up 32% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Whites accounted for 61% of vaccinations, while representing 62% of the population.
Notably, Black residents make up an alarming 39% of deaths due to COVID-19 in the state.
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