ELIZABETH, New Jersey (WABC) -- A community activist from New Jersey is urging people to get the COVID vaccine and using his own story as a cautionary tale.
At first, Elizabeth community activist Salaam Ismiall discouraged people in his community not to get the vaccine. But now he's in the hospital fighting a severe case of COVID and says he was wrong to tell people to avoid vaccination.
WATCH | Extended interview with community activist Salaam Ismiall
Eyewitness News has covered Ismiall's work for years and reached out to him when he spoke out about the numerous COVID deaths in one Elizabeth nursing facility.
"I was one of those anti-vaccine, for a variety of reasons. I've come to the realization that this is all we have," Ismiall said.
He's been in the hospital for about six days.
"I had a 103 temperature, one of my lungs felt like garbage. I was prepared to die. No doubt about it," Ismiall said.
Before this, he had posted online discouraging the vaccines, but now he wants an opportunity to send a new message.
"Well, I mean, I'm not going to beat up on myself," he said. "Not because Salaam Ismiall got sick, oh now he's going to come out ... no, no, no. It has nothing to do with that. I'd die first. "I believe that this vaccine is all we have -- that if we do nothing, just take the hit, then you not only affect yourself, but everything around you."
There is a huge push in Union County to get more people in communities of color vaccinated.
Eyewitness News spoke with Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados about that mission and his thoughts on the new message from the activist now bravely making a new call for vaccinations.
"Listen to health professionals," Granados said.
For more information on the COVID vaccine, residents can head to the county's website.
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