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If spending time with family and friends matter, this shot matters

Phoenicia Hill Phoenecia “Neci” Hill, community engagement coordinator, VCU Center on Society and Health, dance instructor

Neci’s job is to give our community residents a voice in the university’s work addressing social, environmental and community factors in health. But the pandemic made person-to-person connection with researchers much more difficult.

“I want to be safe while interacting with people, and I want to go back out and do things for the community,” Neci said, describing why this shot matters. “We’ve been virtual for so long. You can connect with people on Zoom, but it’s just different to have that in-person connection.”

That’s not the only reason this shot matters to Neci. She’s also a dance instructor, and thanks to the shot, her East End reggae, hip-hop and salsa classes are moving from online to in-person.

She’s also protecting her mother, who has health issues. Neci will soon travel to New Mexico to celebrate her sister’s marriage. Because of the pandemic, no family members could travel to attend the ceremony last August. “That’s my only sister, my baby sister,” Neci said. “For me not to be able to stand beside her or be there at her wedding was heartbreaking.”

Neci is well aware that even as things open up, the virus is still with us — and will be for a while. There’s one way out, though, she said. “Get the shot for your community and other people around you. I understand the hesitancy about it, being a person of color. If more people in communities of color got vaccinated, we can change the trajectory. Grandma might be able to stay around a little bit more. And you can have ease at more family functions, and feel more comfortable coming together and having some sense of normalcy again.”

The pandemic has made her more resilient. ”If I can survive this, I can get through anything,” she said. “I've always appreciated life, but I really appreciate it now. Life literally is a gift. Cherish that time you have with your friends, with your family and your loved ones, because it's not promised.”

To get vaccinated, go to vaccinate.virginia.gov. To read more stories like this, visit vcuhealth.org/thisshotmatters.