Earlier this month, I received my second and last dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and the first thing I thought of was how lucky I am. It only took 15 minutes, I was done and walked out to the parking lot to drive home.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

I called my mother to tell her how the process of vaccination went. She lives in a locally displaced camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, with thousands of other families, and they walk shoulder to shoulder in the crowded streets.

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc there, turning half of the displaced camp into a graveyard. My mother talks about people she knows who started struggling to breathe and died. Here I was, fully vaccinated, starting to plan for months and years ahead. And my mother wakes up every day wondering if she will see the sunset again.

This is a feeling many, like me, whose families are separated, go through every day. Imagine if your own family, facing the threat of COVID-19, could only dream about receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If anything, I wish all the doses rejected by the anti-vaccine groups would be sent to the people like my mother who urgently need it. With over 1.4 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered around the world, less than 2% have reached Africa and zero have reached where my mother is. Chances are it could be months – if not years – until she can have access to a vaccine.

Here in America, anti-vaccine groups are going around showing their privilege. I bumped into a couple on a Maine hiking trail recently. Our chat about the beautiful sunny and warm day turned into an argument when one of them said there was no need for me to wear my mask.

“Will you wear this until your hair turns gray?” they asked, followed by loud laughter.

I said I was wearing it because it is the etiquette, and it makes me feel like a good American. The couple had not received any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and they were not planning to, even when it is easily available to them. And they went on and on about all the misinformation out there about the vaccination— including that the dosages have a tracking chip in them. There was no way I could change their minds.

Every time I receive a call from Somalia my heart sinks. It reminds me of the extent of disparities and inequalities that exist not only in our communities but globally. Social distancing and sanitizing are not an option in Somalia. We have soap and water easily available for us here; my family ventures out of their displaced persons’ camp for miles to buy them. Five gallons of water could cost over $10 and a bar of soap is $2. They save most of the water for drinking and cooking. We are watering our gardens here almost every day.

My mother says the only way out of the pandemic is by receiving a vaccine. The American couple who are anti-vaxxers believe the only way out of this is not believing in science. Maybe if all anti-vaccine groups could spend a week at the same camp where my mother is and experience the realities of life with no privileges, they might start to appreciate science.

These are the times we should be grateful for what we have, the services our government provides and, most importantly, to thank the scientists and those who have worked hard to keep us informed. A patriotic American would do these things. Others who are on social media and purposefully spreading misinformation about the vaccine are a disappointment to the millions – including my family – who urgently need the COVID-19 vaccine to avoid getting sick.

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