WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — They don’t want to be here. Victor and Jackie Frazier don’t want to be looking into a camera, pleading with anyone who will listen to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
They’re only here because their daughter, Barbara, isn’t.
“If any of her friends would have caught COVID," Victor Frazier said, "she would have made sure they were taken care of. She was just a fighter for other people, and unfortunately, she made a decision to neglect her own care.”
Barbara Frazier had begun to blossom. Her parents speak of awards she won at work and the pride she made them feel. But when the COVID-19 vaccine reached their small southern town, Victor and Jackie couldn’t convince their daughter to get it. Then, she got the virus.
“She did not trust the medical field or the scientists," Victor said. “Me and my wife both were vaccinated. And when we were trying to help our daughter, we both caught COVID, and I caught COVID pneumonia.”
Victor and Jackie Frazier spent time in the hospital, but eventually, they recovered. Barbara died in her sleep at 29 years old.
“It’s like something being snatched out of you,” said Jackie. "You’re just completely in shock. It’s like you’re in a dream, you know, and it’s not registered. Nothing’s really registered, you know?”
Within weeks of losing their daughter, Victor and Jackie committed to sharing her story, in part because they knew she wasn’t alone. They know of so many people who look like them who don’t wear masks and won’t get the vaccine.
Dr. Catherine Burley sees it, too.
“There’s fear," Dr. Burley said about many of her Black patients at Family Health Centers of Georgia. "You know, they don’t have a lot of trust.”
She also sees how decades of conscious and subconscious bias in medical health have impacted her community.
“You know, they go to the doctor, and they’re treated differently," she said. "They’re talked to differently. I understand their fear and suspicion. I get it. But you know, a lot of times sometimes they just want to hear me say, ‘You need to get the vaccine.’”
But to pinpoint one group for vaccine hesitancy is to miss the vast diversity of mass resistance.
A study from the COVID States Project found it’s not just Black parents, but rural parents, young parents, and low-income parents who are more likely to have concerns. And a CDC survey found the states with the most hesitant populations are Montana and Wyoming.
So many have lost. So many are speaking out. As a fourth wave of the virus fills hospitals again, a new wave of appeals seeks to convince those not yet reached.
"I mean, there’s not a week that goes by that I’m not getting a call from the medical examiner, the hospital, or a family member about one of my patients who's perished from COVID," said Dr. Burley. "It’s very real. Some of these people were fine two months ago and they are now deceased.”
Victor and Jackie saw it with Barbara. Now, amidst their grief, because of their grief, they look into a camera and speak.
“When you go to the emergency room," Victor said, "you see a lot of Black people just standing there, waiting for hours and hours. Something’s gotta scratch that surface and let them know that, you know, they have to be prepared. This is not a plague. This is a killer.”