Lying prone during an interview done over FaceTime while enduring the vaccine's side effects — sore arm, fatigue, dry mouth — Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) was clearly not feeling her best the day after her Johnson & Johnson shot at the Howard Brown Health 63rd St. clinic in Englewood.
"I already got bad sinuses, so this did not make it any better," she said. "I was high as a kite yesterday. I had to have my kids come downstairs to get me to come bring me into the house. They need to sell that in the dispensary."
But the first-term Woodlawn alderwoman had been vaccinated, weeks after the shots had been made available to her because of her elected office. Her decision came after initial hesitation, out of concern that seniors in her ward had yet to be inoculated, and skepticism of traditional medicine.
She cited personal conversations with South Siders who had been victims of non-consensual medical experimentation, as well as her observations of health care infrastructure closing on the South Side over the last decades. And she referenced her own mistreatment during a pregnancy, when she was overdue and had not gained any weight but her physician discounted her symptoms; she delivered via cesarean section.
"It's true. It's like when we Black women are in pain, nobody really takes us seriously," Taylor said.
But early in March, Taylor had a COVID-19 scare: her hairdresser got the coronavirus. Like most people during this pandemic, Taylor, who has been working remotely as City Council conducts business over Zoom, had been budgeting her risk.
"I was trying not to do anything and have no contact with folks," she said. But the hair appointments were a risky luxury.
"She got it, and it scared the hell out of me, to the point I had to run to Friend Family Health and get one of the rapid tests," Taylor said. "It came back negative. But because I was so hyped up that I would have it, I'm like, 'I can't live scared like this.'
"Like I live in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and I ain't scared to die. But I don't want to be scared to live. So that's what it was to me."
While Taylor had a bad experience with her earlier childbirth, the doctor who performed the c-section did a fine job; she named her son after him. She is choosy with her physicians, including Dr. Maya Green at Howard Brown Health, who wound up giving her the shot. They had previously done pop-up testing events together, and seeing her willingness to come to her community and do the work resonated with her.
Taylor said the long year at home has paid off in terms of family time, with her children still in the house and her grandchild coming over every other weekend.
"I don't want to be the person who causes them to be sick or die," she said. "And my constituents. I'm the alderwoman who gives people my personal number. I talk to everybody. We're going to go back to constituent night, but we're going to do it virtually and by telephone, but if someone is just demanding to see me, I don't want to mistreat anybody or that they're not supposed to have contact me because I'm scared of COVID."
City government is likely to resume at least some functions in hybrid form soon, and Taylor said if the city is having students go back to school, she and other elected officials should lead by example.
"I stand up to everybody and say all the stuff out of my mouth, but I'm scared to be with people because I don't want to die. You've got to pick your battles, so I took the vaccination. I have no regrets."