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“I am not interested in the vaccine for the Coronavirus,” I said for the third time to the New Jersey State Prison medical staff. 

The nurse frowned at me. The medical staff had been trying to administer COVID-19 vaccines to all inmates, so my answer wasn’t received very well. The reality is that since NJSP began offering vaccinations in January, many inmates have refused to take the vaccines.

Noticing her exaggerated frown, I wanted to say a thing or two about her reaction, but I bit my tongue. In this place, an inmate has no voice and finding one can often land you in a bad place. Speaking one’s mind is not tolerated by the authorities. We often don’t get any answers to our legitimate concerns and inquiries.

Here is what I wished to tell the nurse:

Ms. Nurse, I am a 35-year-old Black man. I have no known health issues. I know nothing of this vaccine except what I have seen on the news. I do not know the long term effects of this drug. I think that if I take the drug and have an adverse reaction I will die because the prison medical care is not reliable.

I also believe that since several people around me had tested positive for the highly contagious virus, I probably had the virus as well without showing any symptoms.

Additionally, I have understood that this vaccine does not stop one from contracting the virus, it just lessens the symptoms. So, being a healthy person, I don’t think I need to rely on the vaccine, and I would rather depend on my immune system to fight off the disease. And perhaps I already have the COVID-19 antibodies.

Finally, Ms. Nurse, I’m a Black man in prison. I have no reason to believe that you or the government cares whether I contract COVID-19, or if I’m vaccinated. With the history of how Black people have been treated in this country, the government may be wanting to use us for another experiment.

So, no, thank you, Ma’m. I will take my chances and wait for herd immunity.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Kory “Hussain” McClary is a writer incarcerated in New Jersey who enjoys writing short story fiction. His writings can also be found at his personal blog