Aug. 16, 2021 -- Minnesota resident Sheletta Brundidge, 49, expected her son to ask for an Xbox or a pair of LeBron James shoes for his 15th birthday. Instead, he had one simple request: that his mother get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“What's going to happen to us if you get sick? Or if you die?” asked now 15-year-old Andrew.
“That touched my heart,” says Brundidge, the mother of four children, three of whom have special needs. “I never thought about how my decision to not get the vaccine would affect my kids. He made me realize it was not just a personal decision. I had to get it for my kids and my community.”
Less than 2 weeks after Andrew’s birthday, Brundidge gave him the gift he requested. On Friday, she went to a grocery store pharmacy in Maplewood, MN, and received the first of two Pfizer shots.
Since the start of the pandemic, Brundidge, a local media personality, has recognized the seriousness of COVID-19. But as a Black woman, she has little faith in a health care system that has often brushed aside communities of color.
Researchers have found that people of color do not receive the same level of care as white patients. According to various studies, pain is often undertreated in people of color, and Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
Brundidge says she nearly died while giving birth because doctors ignored her symptoms and concerns.
“The health care system has not been fair or provided equity when treating Black and Brown patients,” she says. “As a Black woman, we need to fight to get basic care.”
“Now they’re coming to our communities, having town halls, trying to convince us to get vaccinated. They care about our health now because it affects white people.”
Andrew’s birthday wish was a wake-up call for his mom -- especially now, with the highly transmissible Delta variant around, Brundidge says. She knew she needed to do her part to stop the spread.
Andrew held her hand the whole time, he says.
“Her friends and my dad tried to talk her into it, but she wouldn’t do it,” he says. “I decided to use that special birthday wish.”
Knowing she’s on her way to full protection means he can breathe a little easier, he says.
“I feel happy knowing everyone is a bit safer,” says Andrew, who already got his vaccine. “It’ll help us get back to normal, which is where everyone wants to be.”
Brundidge is now encouraging others to get the shot. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz joined her at the pharmacy to help amplify her message.
Walz said Brundidge gave him homework: to read up on the reasons for hesitancy in the Black community.
"This Delta variant is not your Alpha variant. This is more dangerous, it's more contagious, and you're exactly right: It has a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially Black communities,” he said.
“Thank you,” he said to Brundidge. “This is really bold.”