Recently, we had the chance to talk with Rev. Sylvia King of Christ Centered Community Church in Johnstown, PA about the personal impact of her Covid-19 diagnosis and the reluctance among some African Americans to get the Covid vaccine.

Understanding vaccine hesitancy among African Americans means understanding the history of medical experimentation in the U.S. and learning more about these horrific events – most notoriously, the Tuskegee Study.  “As an African American, I truly understand the apprehension and fear in taking the shot, BUT this is not a test,” says Rev. Sylvia King. “The fear of taking the vaccine is understandable because of the history, but this is not a guinea pig situation. The field has been leveled. We are all being given the same thing.”

Rev. King was diagnosed with Covid-19 in early January. Now, three months later, she is still on oxygen. After experiencing severe shortness of breath, an ambulance transported her to Conemaugh Hospital. The first thing she recalls from the hospital is being zippered shut – not in a room, but in a quarantine bubble. At that moment, she realized all she could do was pray.  “I could hardly breathe – even to speak, it was every breath I was grasping for air,” she recalled.

After being discharged, Rev. King was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure, which is why she is still on oxygen today. She applauds the nurses and staff at Conemaugh Hospital for their high quality of care and sacrifice on the frontlines. “They should be commended for the treatment of Covid patients because each time they treat someone with Covid, they’re putting their family and themselves and risk,” Rev. King noted.

Rev. King had no other underlying health issues. She had never been in the hospital a day in her life. She attributes her good health to why she was able to overcome the disease. Rev. King recalls, “When I came home, I remember being so tired that I slept for two weeks. I was just totally worn out. These things are not normal for me. Usually, when I get up in the morning, and my feet hit the floor, I’m gone until night.”

“Covid has leveled the playing field. Even for those who have not been infected, Covid has certainly affected all of us in some way,” said Rev. King. “As soon as I’m eligible to take the shot, I’ll be rolling up my sleeves,” Rev. King said. 

With over 540,000 American lives lost to Covid-19 so far, Rev. King feels blessed to be able to come out of it and survive. She wants to use her story to educate others on the importance of taking Covid precautions seriously and the need for everyone to get the Covid vaccine.

“When I was laying on my back in the hospital, I would lay there and talk to God. I remember saying this – I knew my assignment was in becoming a voice for Covid. For me, it makes it not in vain. I would like to be able to use my testimony to help others – because that’s how we overcome.”