As we continue through the winter, states around the US are experiencing drastic increases in their numbers of confirmed COVID cases. According to michigan.gov, the average number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan over the past five days, as of January 3rd, 2022, is 12,247 per day. BLAC spoke with Dr. Lonnie Joe, Jr. MD, to get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that are currently being asked about COVID and variants in our community.
In our exclusive interview, we cover how COVID affects Black communities in Detroit. We answer questions about the safety and usage of the COVID-19 vaccine and discuss how we can best support each other in staying safe during this time.
BLAC: How have you seen the effects of covid, particularly since the emergence of new variants, impact the Black community in Detroit?
Dr. Joe: “Unfortunately, I think we have an undue burden as an African American community. We seem to be affected in most disease states more severely for all of the reasons we termed social determinants of health. COVID is no different, and it’s worse. The African American community in the Detroit area has been disproportionately affected. We have some of the diseases that kind of lead the pack— diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illnesses, kidney disease, and being overweight. The problem is getting the media to keep that ball up in the air and reporting that African Americans and those who are socioeconomically deprived are disproportionately affected by this disease. Detroit is probably just like any other metropolitan area containing many African American people. We see more cases amongst African Americans and more severe cases amongst African Americans because of those predisposed factors that I mentioned earlier.”
BLAC: With the continual rise and new variants, how can people support each other in staying safe?
Dr. Joe: “The resistance to taking the vaccine is still significant, and these are the people who are continuing to spread the virus if they become infected. One thing that we know about the COVID family (based on data we’ve collected over the past two years) is that you’ve got an 80% chance of not getting ill after you get infected with this virus. The other 20% are wreaking havoc because those people will have symptoms and spread the virus. People who get vaccinated and then get this illness have a different form of illness. They are not as severely ill, and the length of time they are ill is compared to having a common cold. Most people in the hospital – who are sick enough to be hospitalized because of COVID – are not vaccinated. Our breakthrough cases are minimal. In this community, we are averaging 2% or less of breakthrough cases.”
BLAC: It has been rumored that the vaccine affects fertility. Is there any truth to that?
Dr. Joe: “Right now, based on looking at the current data, the answer is no. It does not affect the fetus. It is not transmitted in breast milk, so it is safe for pregnant women to take the vaccine and breastfeed after delivery. It would, however, be a devastating case to have a pregnant female come down with a severe case of COVID. The current recommendation is that pregnant women should be vaccinated and that it is OK to breastfeed after vaccination.”
BLAC: We are seeing a rise in schools and amongst children. Are COVID vaccines safe for children? At what age should children receive the COVID vaccine?
Dr. Joe: “The immune system responds differently as we grow. The immune system has not matured in certain age groups as we consider the bone marrow, the spleen, the lymphatic system. All of those things that give us our so-called ‘natural immunity’ are in various development stages depending on age and the population. The collective data right now says that you can boost the immune system response to COVID down to age five. The vaccine is safe, and the side effect profile for most children who have gotten COVID vaccines is similar to what we see with adults.”
BLAC: What is the Omicron variant? Why is it essential for us to protect ourselves from the Omicron variant?
Dr. Joe: “COVID and Omicron are related. Fortunately, as of this week, there is finally enough information collected that says Omicron may not be as dangerous as the Delta variant was or is. While it may be easier to catch and give you more acute symptoms, it may not be as dangerous. We are entering a peak season. This virus has a predilection for getting worse during the cold season, so we’re thinking that the next four to six weeks will give us tremendous numbers of people being affected by both variants, Delta and Omicron. The variation is expected in the viral research world. The question is: how long is it going to last? What will patients have to suffer through?”
BLAC: Lastly, for those considering the vaccine now, how can Detroit residents receive their COVID-19 vaccines?
Dr. Joe: “Drug stores have it, and you can get into a lot of them without appointments. The church community in Detroit has stepped up to have times and locations where people can just come in to get vaccinated four times a week. People have choices in this community. They can get vaccinated today. There is no excuse for anybody to say that they cannot get vaccinated, except we have homebound people who have some difficulty receiving the vaccine because of the cumbersome way the vaccine must be administered after it’s not refrigerated. Nursing homes have plenty of vaccines in this area to treat patients with.”
As we continue to navigate through this year and learn more about the complexities of COVID-19, the best thing that citizens can do is to stay knowledgeable about the changing precautions surrounding the virus and its variants. Most importantly, listen to current CDC guidelines. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor about any concerns you may have concerning taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Protect yourself and others.
Neighborhood Walk-up Site
Where: 6100 14th St., Detorit, MI 48208
Thurs-Fri. 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Where: 8415 Jefferson Ave.,Detroit, MI 48214
Mon-Fri 9:30 am-5:30 pm
Neighborhood Walk-up Site
Where: 5715 Holcomb Ave., Detroit, MI 48213
Mon. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Wed. 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Fri. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
CVS Pharmacy (Pfizer)
Where: 10652 Gratiot Ave., Detroit, MI 48213
Mon-Fri 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun. 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
CVS Pharmacy (Moderna)
Where: 12907 E Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48215
Mon-Fri 9:00am – 8:00 pm
Sat. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Or any other CVS Pharmacy in your area. Visit the website to schedule your appointment.
Rite Aid (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson)
Where: 14820 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48215
Sat. 9 am-5 pm
Sun. 10 am-6 pm