Wayne Monk was suspicious of the COVID-19 vaccine when it was first distributed. He told his family and friends that he wasn’t going to get the shot. It was just developed too quickly, and by who? He wasn’t sure. And what was in it?
Then, in March 2021, the 55-year-old Fairlawn resident contracted COVID. A few days later, so did his wife.
The disease knocked Monk on his back. It took him 6 and-a-half weeks to recover; it took his 47-year-old wife another week and-a-half. He is still feeling the effects, Monk said. “Right now, today, my smell and taste is still limited,” he said. “So many things I went through —it was unreal.”
“A lot of people, like myself, it was always, ‘I don’t trust the government, I don’t know what this shot’s about’,” he said. “Until I came down with the virus, and my wife and I —we almost lost our lives.”
Spreading the Message
Now, Monk said, the whole family is vaccinated. He and his wife were both first in line, he said, followed later by their two children, aged 16 and 18. Monk has done a complete 180 on the vaccine. Now he’s telling everyone to go out and get it.
Monk has been telling his story widely, hoping others would learn from his mistake, and he believes he convinced a lot of people they need to get vaccinated to stay alive.
“I know growing up in certain areas, experiencing all this stuff, ‘oh, the government don’t care about us’,” he said, “but you have to make a decision of your own. Are you going to make a decision to get vaccinated to protect yourself, your family, your friends your co-workers?”
On June 19, Monk told his story to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who together with Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci went door-to-door for the Community Corps Day of Action to spread information about the COVID vaccine and help residents around Anacostia High School make a plan to get it.
“Well thank you, spread that word,” Fauci told him. “You’re the best person to do it, because you’ve been through it.”
“My message is very simple,” Monk told Fauci, “I’m still alive.”
It’s a message many still haven’t received.
Only 28.75 percent of residents in Twining, the Health Planning Neighborhood in which Monk and his family live, have received the vaccine. Just north, in Fort Dupont, that number is still below 23 percent. Across the river, Capitol Hill has nearly 41 percent of the population vaccinated, and Southwest is at nearly 50 percent, according to DC Health data as of June 14.
On June 19, as Fauci and Bowser canvassed throughout Fairlawn, many residents answered the door assuring the Mayor that they had been vaccinated. Others expressed skepticism.
Mother and daughter Esther and Natisha Brighthaupt answered the door of her home, Natisha’s four children behind them. Natisha said she still had issues with the vaccine. She said that she had heard the vaccine would not cure the disease and that it didn’t work. Esther said that she worried that getting the vaccine would make her contagious, and she would give the children the disease. “No, not at all,” Dr. Fauci told Esther, also reassuring her daughter of the vaccine’s efficacy. “In fact we’ve got to get you vaccinated; if you get infected, you can pass it on.”
On another street, 51-year-old Marine veteran Nate Ward told Fauci and Bowser that he was skeptical of a pandemic announced by the government, pointing out that a vaccine had been very quickly approved by the same government. “It’s about fear and it’s about control,” he said.
He said the vaccine had been developed too quickly to be safe. “They’ve been working on the groundwork for this vaccine for twenty years,” Dr. Fauci told Lane, assuring him of its safety. “More than 300 million people have already taken it.”
“It’s too quick, it’s too quick,” Lane interrupted the 80-year-old scientist.
Prioritize What You Control
Monk said he understands these arguments. He knows a lot of people think the vaccine is about control, but he thinks they’re focusing on control of the wrong thing.
Working with their physician, he and his wife fought to stay out of the hospital. Partly, he wanted to be sure that they would be able to see one another no matter what. But he also saw it as a way of keeping control over their own health decisions.
One of his relatives was admitted to hospital after being infected with COVID. There, the patient was induced into a coma. He never came out, Monk said.
“A lot of people think it’s oh I have to comply [with the government],” he said. “But it’s not that, it’s about saving your life. “
“I mean, if you would like to go through what I went through to convince you, then be my guest. But if there’s some way that it’s going to help me or prevent or make it easier for me if I happen to get it again —of course I’m going to jump.”
As part of the Community Day of Action Event, Bowser announced new incentives for DC residents who get vaccinated. Every week for the next four weeks, DC residents who are 18 and older and get their first (or only) dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the RISE Demonstration Center, Anacostia High School, or Ron Brown High School can enter into a drawing to win:
- A 2021 Ford Escape Sport SE Hybrid and a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (one winner each week)
- $10,000 for groceries, to cover approximately a year of free groceries (two winners each week)
- A year of free Metro bus and train (multiple winners each week)
“And your chances of winning are very, very good,” the Mayor said Saturday.
DC operates walk-up sites below in addition to the pharmacies, clinics, and health care providers that are also administering the vaccines citywide. These sites will operate their own scheduling systems.
Can’t leave your home? Call 1-855-363-0333 and DC Health will bring the vaccine to you.