All people, especially in the Black community, need to get vaccinated

March 16, 2021. News & Observer. By Micayla Jones.

As a current medical student and a future Black female physician, have taken the COVID-19 vaccine to protect myself and to protect those in my Black community. 

For those concerned about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, I hear you; I FEEL you. In the past, we have often been taken advantage of by the medical community and we have not always been treated appropriately by the health care system. Look no further than the 40-year Tuskegee study of syphilis and its treatment of African American males. However, as I sit and write, the US just reached 16 million COVID-19 cases. And like so many diseases, COVID’s impact on the Black community, as well as Hispanic and American Indian populations is far more devasting than it is for whites, with people of color dying at more than two and a half times the rate. These numbers are sickening, but I am encouraged about the future. It is my hope that all American communities, but especially those in my African American community become vaccinated. There four reasons why we should consider encouraging COVID-19 vaccination in our community. 

First, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the vaccine. This means that the vaccine has been analyzed and is deemed effective and safe for those who are eligible to receive it. We can trust that this recommendation is only made after thorough review of all data. To those who worry about the expedited process; all steps for review were completed, but instead of being completed in a predetermined order, they were completed concurrently, saving time, and hastening the release date. In short, we can trust the FDAs claims that this vaccine is very effective at preventing serious illness. 

Second, African Americans were represented in the vaccine trials. Patients from our community also benefited as a result of taking the vaccine. Furthermore, the vaccine was created and developed with the help of Black medical scientists! Need some convincing? Look up Dr. Kizmekia Corbett! 

Next, we have a duty to each other. As the African Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” There are medically vulnerable patients in our community who will not be able to get this vaccine. There are people in our community that have fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system, making them hard to reach for prevention, treatment, and/or vaccination. We have a duty to protect each other. Protection for one another from COVID-19 mortality can happen via herd immunity. Herd immunity happens when enough people become vaccinated or immune to the disease that the spread of infection becomes less likely. With “all hands on deck,” we can do this! 

Lastly, it is critical to educate younger generations about the historical disparities that people of color have endured. We want to move past this mistreatment, but we must never naively forget. I believe that older generations can serve as examples in our community by taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Let’s show those that are younger or still skeptical of the vaccine, and really the system in general, that we will not live in fear forever. Disparities will not go away overnight, but we will not continue to allow this virus to hold power over our community!

Wonder what steps you can make to help us protect each other? Continue to wear a clean mask, wash your hands frequently, and social distance. Take all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. Hold our community accountable – mom, dad, siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins. And lastly, hold our leaders accountable! Urge them to adopt policies that uplift our community. 

I am an advocate for all patients, but especially those vulnerable patients that need help from within the system. I am here to amplify the voices of our community! As I continue to do so, I will get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage others in my community to do the same. We are in this together. 

Micayla A. Jones is a J. Bradley Wilson Schweitzer Fellow and a student at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.