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By Dianne Anderson

Not knowing what to believe or what to ignore kept Amber Spencer wrestling against the idea of the vaccine for a long time.

She wasn’t exactly an anti-vaxxer, but she heard all the stories and saw all of the news, and hated putting anything in her body that wasn’t natural.

The ethnicity box that providers always ask people to check off didn’t help matters. She said no one can figure out how the race question is related to healthcare services.

“They’re not giving us enough information,” said Spencer, a San Bernardino resident. “It’s the scare tactics and it’s letting our imaginations run rampant. It seems they’re just giving us things to be afraid of.”

Until the virus hit home, she was undecided. She watched her sister intubated, fighting for her life.

“My sister got really ill and she also has children. She thought she was out of here,” Spencer said.

As a hairstylist, Spencer has several clients. For her, the greatest deciding factor was that she feared putting her four-year-old twins and her 15-year-old at risk.

“I didn’t want to run the risk, I’d rather be safe than sorry,” she said.

On Saturday, September 11, the PAL Center is hosting a free Pfizer vaccine event at 2450 Black Street in San Bernardino from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. It is sponsored by the Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, County Supervisor Joe Baca Jr., Community Action Partnership and others who will be helping with food distribution, utility and rental assistance.

The shot is available for 12 years and older.

As the Delta variant soars, so too has the demand for more vaccines nationwide. Over 70% of all Americans have received at least one dose.

Dr. Mildred Henry, founder and retired CEO of the Provisional Accelerated Learning Center, admits she also was dubious at first, and wanted to learn more about the vaccine that seemed to be available quickly.

“They had to because it was needed,” she said. “I didn’t want to [get vaccinated], but when you look at the alternative, to me, you didn’t have much choice so you go and get it,” she said.

All of her colleagues, except one, have had the shot at the top of the year. She had no problems, but she admits she isn’t in a hurry to get the booster, but adds, if needed, she will.

“Both my kids are telling me to go get it. We’re not overjoyed about it, but we’re taking it – most of us,” she said.

Dwaine Radden Sr., CEO of the PAL Center, said he is happy to bring the vaccine event to the Muscoy area, which was chosen because state analytics show the area has the lowest vaccine rate in the county. He is thankful for Pastor Sam Casey with COPE, who recommended the clinic for their facility.

Radden also had COVID, and couldn’t walk or breathe, and is still dealing with some long hauler effects. Since then, he got the shot, which he said acts like a booster to build up antibodies.

But he was also motivated to host the event after watching a fellow staff member go through the grief of losing his father to the virus.

“Bringing it to the PAL Center and our community was needed and I felt his pain of losing his dad,” he said. “The tough thing for me being a father of five. They had him on a ventilator for a while.”

There is a lot of confusion in the community, and sometimes unrealistic expectations of what the shot can do, or even the side effects.

He understands the hesitancy, especially for the Black community, and the role that historic medical abuses have influenced the community’s decision, including the Tuskegee experiments.

“I try to talk to them, and explain I get it but you got kids and they need you. If you’re an African American male, we need you to get the shot so you can stay alive and be safe,” he said.

And getting the vaccine is not a total guarantee of not getting COVID. One of his friends had both shots, but ended up in the hospital anyway. She had a rough way to go, but she’s alright now.

“When she got to the hospital, they told her this – the shot just keeps you from dying,” he said.

The good news is because the PAL Center has served the community for 36 years, he feels more people will turn out.

“If they trust and believe you, they know you, they’ll come out for the vaccination,” he said.

At the PAL Center campus, they are taking every precaution to keep students and staff safe, and partnering with a company that is coming out Tuesdays and Thursdays for regular rapid testing for staff and students.

All students have assigned seating, and they have purified filtration and HVAC. He said they fog the campus regularly just like the hotels.

“I want to go home to my wife, my kids and my grandkids. We’re going to make sure your kids are safe, our staff is safe, whatever it costs we’re going to do it,” he said.

Through COVID, probably the most unexpected aspect is that students have returned differently. Not having access to school has changed attitudes. Even parents are more involved, they’re coming out for testing and signing up for certain events.

“What I see from this outbreak, this pandemic is that our kids have come back somewhat mature, meaning that they can appreciate school more after being gone for so long,” he said.

To see the SBCUSD dashboard with COVID-19 data,

To see more detailed information on the spread of COVID-19 and variants,


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