COVID-19 has affected Black people and other people of color at a disproportionate rate, and healthcare systems’ historical abuse and mistreatment of these communities mean that mistrust of the vaccines is high among them. In this Q&A, Bayo Curry-Winchell, MD, addresses some concerns and shares her knowledge.
(This article originally appeared in Las Vegas Black Image.)
Q. Why has COVID-19 affected BIPOC communities at a disproportionate rate?
A. The effect COVID-19 has had on BIPOC communities is multifaceted, leading to higher infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. Some of the factors attributed to the disproportional rate of poor outcomes seen in people of color, communities of color, and the underserved include limited access to testing sites, quarantine challenges for families living in multi-generational households leading to increased risk of exposure, and delay in seeking care when experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms.
Q. As a person of color, why should I trust this vaccine?
A. The historical mistreatment people of color have experienced with the public health system should be acknowledged and continued to be reflected upon, to help ensure that we learn from the past. In my family, that mistrust surfaced when the vaccine became available. My father is a Black 98-year-old veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He has a deep-rooted distrust of public health and was hesitant to receive the vaccine. We discussed his concerns, who had participated in the clinical trials, how the vaccine was developed, and the level of protection it offered. After hearing the information, he made an informed decision and decided to get the vaccine.
Q. As a Black physician, why do you trust the vaccine?
A. I trust the vaccine for several reasons and also believe in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. During clinical trials, all ages, races, and ethnicities were included, and safety measures are in place to closely monitor use, effectiveness, and potential adverse effects. In addition, the difference between the past and now is that there is complete transparency on the development of this vaccine. The level of openness and opportunity to learn about public health options such as vaccines was not as readily available in the past as it is today.
Q. How can I be sure it’s safe, as it was developed so quickly?
A. The science behind mRNA has been around for a long time. Yes, this is the first time it’s being used in a vaccine platform. However, it has been around and researched for several years. It’s also important to remember the vaccine was tested on people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.
Q. Should I expect side effects?
A. The short answer is yes. However, not everyone experiences side effects. If you experience side effects, they might include fever, body aches, and fatigue. I often give the example of the onset of side effects representing a “dress rehearsal” for a show. Your body is rehearsing as if it has come into contact with COVID-19. This response is in the form of fever, body aches, and fatigue, allowing your body to practice how it would attack the coronavirus while producing antibodies, ultimately leading to a level of protection against the coronavirus.
Q. If I already had COVID-19, why do I need to get the vaccine?
A. Although you contracted COVID-19, the level of antibodies (protection) you currently have is unknown. The degree of protection can vary dramatically and decreases over time, which could result in a re-infection. The vaccine provides a known level of defense against the coronavirus, which reduces your risks for re-infection and hospitalization.
Q. Where can I get more information on the vaccine?
A. I encourage everyone to reach out to their health care provider and research credible vaccine resources to help you make the best decision for you and your family. Resources such as the CDC or Immunize Nevada will have the most current information on COVID-19, the vaccines, and where you can go to get vaccinated locally.
Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published. But note that our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 are developing and changing very rapidly; if you have questions about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and vaccinations, please talk to your healthcare provider.