Nicole Ari Parker: Protecting Herself & Her Family from Covid

HealthyWomen recently sat down with actor, mother and business owner Nicole Ari Parker to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid. The star of the new show “The Refuge Plays” has also been supporting health and wellness initiatives for many years.

Here, she sheds light on vaccine hesitancy among people of color, the crucial role of knowing your options and why protecting yourself — and your loved ones — against Covid is the ultimate form of self-care.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

HealthyWomen: At HealthyWomen, we understand that women are the “chief medical officers” for their families. You have an 83-year-old father, an 80-year-old mother, a husband and two teenage children you’re caring for in some way. Did your role as a chief medical officer of sorts play a part in your decision to get informed about your vaccine options and have conversations with your loved ones about getting vaccinated?

Nicole Ari Parker: Yes, when Covid hit the first time, we all panicked. We didn’t know how to get it, if we would get it, if we would harm other people. So we really gathered as much information as possible and talked about it — about my children’s concerns, my parents’ concerns with their age. And I just found that being vaccinated and having my children vaccinated was the best step for me.

My job and my husband’s job [as actors] sort of mandated that, for the safety of all the people working in the studio system, we were all vaccinated. But then that accelerated our deep dive into learning about what was safe, and staying informed about public health issues like Covid, which is crucial to making smart decisions to keep everyone safe.

HealthyWomen: When it comes to Covid vaccines, what do people need to know about the options that are available to them?

Nicole Ari Parker: We’re fortunate enough to have multiple vaccine options to protect ourselves. And, so, the first thing to do is to get informed about the different types of vaccines that are out there, and then discuss those options with your healthcare provider.

HealthyWomen: There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, especially, research shows, among people of color. What is your advice for people who have concerns about being vaccinated against Covid?

Nicole Ari Parker: Well, Covid itself doesn’t discriminate, right? Everyone can get it. It’s just the disproportionate numbers of how people suffer with Covid when they’re unvaccinated, and how it has really affected, disproportionately, different communities, including the African American community. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many social, geographic, political, economic and environmental factors that create challenges to vaccination access and acceptance. And that often affects racial and ethnic groups, such as the Black community.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and finding the truth is often very difficult. According to the CDC, as of March of 2023, only 29.3% of African American adults in the U.S. age 18 years and older have received an updated Covid booster. And it’s important to stay informed about public health issues like Covid so you can stay updated and stay ready to make these decisions for your health and for your family’s health.

It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider you trust about your Covid vaccine options and what is right for you and your loved ones. I’m vaccinated. I’m boosted.

HealthyWomen: So, this ties in with that question. As a woman of color who has a public presence and, with it, influence, why is the topic of Covid vaccines one that you find important to use your voice to highlight?

Nicole Ari Parker: That’s a great question. As many other women do, I often think about how to best take care of myself, my husband, my kids and my parents in their 80s. I have an unshakeable desire to protect them from harm’s way. But I also feel that there’s a very clear distinction between Covid and Covid vaccines. The wonderful thing that I found about being vaccinated is that even if you get Covid, the risk of suffering, debilitating decline or a hospital stay that could then turn into a longer stay is greatly reduced.

I contracted Covid twice. My father, 83 years old, got Covid and recovered in four days. It didn’t take its toll on his body because he was ready to fight and that Covid vaccine helped him do just that.

HealthyWomen: Absolutely, I’m really grateful that your family has been safe from this. You’re 52, which is astonishing. You’re gorgeous — but you can be gorgeous and 52.

Nicole Ari Parker: [Laughing] 52 is what makes you good looking, right? All the women in their 30s need to stop panicking and get over here. You really know who you are and how you feel and all those things!

HealthyWomen: So, you’re back on stage, performing several times a week. In what ways does being vaccinated help you feel comfortable being on stage in a live performance setting when we couldn’t leave our homes three years ago?

Nicole Ari Parker: I feel great to still be able to work in theater with great actors and a great director. But I, again, I stay informed about public health issues like Covid to help make the right decisions for my family. In most theaters, being masked is gently suggested when you go in and get your tickets. Even then, with masks and all the information out there, I think it’s important to protect yourself, and to find out how to do that by going to ChooseToProtect.com, and speaking with a healthcare provider about what is right for you.

HealthyWomen: Like so many of us, you must be incredibly busy. I’m sure it can seem like there’s no time to practice self-care. How do you recommend women make the time to learn about the Covid vaccine options so they can keep themselves informed and their loved ones healthy?

Nicole Ari Parker: Self-care is really important, and having a regimen that’s not overwhelming is also very important. Just deciding on three things that you’re going to do and sticking to them not only keeps you healthy physically, but mentally you’re creating stamina and a promise to yourself that you’re going to keep yourself safe. And that way you’re clear headed, you can make informed decisions, you can reach out and find information and make the best decisions for your family.

For example, my husband has created a 15-minute workout for me, but you can find any at-home 15-minute workout online. You put it in a search engine and it comes up. Commit to that. ‘I’m going to get up, no matter what — even if I’m still in my pajamas — I’m going to do this for 15 minutes.’

I’m not one of those people that lines up eight bottles of water to drink; I can line up two, and I drink those two. And I have three vitamins that I take. I put my Gymwrap on that I created — thank you, shameless plug — and I commit to that regimen, and I feel like that stability keeps my head clear, keeps my body happy, and I can be the best mom, wife and actor I can be.

This educational resource was created with support from Novavax.

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