Vaccine Literacy: Dr. Olajide Williams Talks Fighting Fear With Facts


By Staff

Dr. Williams is an expert on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in communities of color and COVID-related health disparities. He avers, “This is one of those times in life where all sectors have to come together for the collective survival.” 

How does the virus spread?

The virus can not live outside of a host. A host can be animals or humans. When they find the host, get into the host, the way they spread is by hijacking the cells of the host. The spikes that you see on the typical Covid illustration are what they use to attach themselves onto a cell. They hack into the nucleus and machinery of the cell, and they use that machinery produce mass copies of itself. They replicate, spread and proliferate inside us until we become reservoirs of the virus and highly infectious. 

“The good news is our bodies have an immune system designed to counter the effects of the virus by blocking its ability to replicate, spread and even attach to our own cells.”

This mutant called Covid now has variants. What are the variants?

“The virus is trying to spread throughout the body, and have a blast by taking down everything in its path within us until we are dead then it has to go to another host and do the same thing. 

“When its replicating and making copies of itself, by hacking our cells, sometimes there are errors in the copying … which are mutations that alter the virus structure. The mutations are then variants of the original virus. Some are harmful to the virus. These erroneous copies are more dangerous; they are better able to evade our immune defense system, more infectious, more deadly, and more lethal than the original.”

What is a variant of concern?

Mutant variants may be more infectious and more deadly than the original virus and may be better equipped to evade our body’s immune system; regardless of our vaccine status. Mutant variants can potentially ‘break-through’ vaccines like a recking ball – this is what we are experiencing now.”

What are the COVID-19 variants of concern?

There are several COVID-19 variants of concern, the most concerning of which have

been Alpha (first identified in UK), Beta (first identified in South Africa), Gamma (first

identified in Brazil), and most recently Delta (first identified in India). The Delta variant is the most recently discovered and the most dangerous to date.”

How can we stop the march of the variants? 

“We need everyone to get fully vaccinated, wait the 10 days before socializing, and be mindful of wearing their mask, social distancing, and washing their hands. We must stop the spread to stop the mutations that create more variants. We have created multiple resources available at to support this necessary behavior change.”

Dr. Olajide Williams


Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH), the internationally recognized nonprofit, who brought us a landmark trilogy of COVID-19 safety protocol music video PSAs in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, in New York City, 20 Seconds or More20 Segundos o Más, and Behind the Mask – as well as Community Immunity: A Rap Anthology About Vaccines, recently released H.Y.P.E. the Breaks: Breakin’ It Down Volume 2, which can be easily downloaded on the HHPH website.

HHPH are the creators of innovative, multimedia public health and education resources to improve health literacy, inspire behavior change and promote health equity. It is founded by the multi-award-winning Dr. Olajide Williams, a tenured Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 

He explains, “We are inspired daily by the transformative power of this art form that, when backed by science, has the power to change behavior and empower communities – especially young people – to take control of their health. Our H.Y.P.E. the Breaks series is an homage to our mission to address childhood obesity and encourage exercise and physical fitness amongst young people around the world. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still requiring many young people to stay at home, it is vital that they have a creative and fun outlet to stay physically and mentally fit.” H.Y.P.E. is short for Helping Young People Energize.

Community Immunity: A Rap Anthology About Vaccines is the latest COVID-19 public information campaign from Hip Hop Public Health. A suite of free resources aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccine coverage in communities of color by fighting fear with facts, this animated rap anthology deconstructs vaccine literacy in a series of five animated videos, beginning with What Are Vaccines and Why Do They Work?. Featuring the voice of Grammy®-winning rapper and HHPH Advisory Board member Darryl DMC McDaniels of Run-DMC, with award-winning producer Artie Green and singer-songwriter Gerry Gunn.