By Dr. Ben Danielson, MD; Dr. Maxine Hayes, MD; Dr. Rayburn Lewis, MD; Dr. Meredith Mathews, MD; Dr. John Vassall, MD; and Dr. Bessie Young, MD
Special to The Seattle Medium
Many Black Americans are not ready to take coronavirus vaccine. With all the confusion and misinformation about the disease and the vaccine, we are not surprised. As physicians in the community, we study information and make decisions that are in the best interests of our patients, our families, and the communities we serve. We urge you and all Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available to you. Here is how we made the decision to take the coronavirus vaccine and why we recommend that you take it.
COVID-19 disease is a real and serious disease. There have been 60,601 confirmed cases and 1,056 deaths in King County as of January 3, 2021. There have been more than 20 million cases in the United States and about 350,000 deaths. There is more disease and more death every day and the disease is not going away. While it may be true that most people recover from the virus, we have no way to not know who will recover and who will die. Old people, young people, sick people, healthy people, children have all been killed by Covid-19. Black people are getting the disease because we are more likely to be around crowds and infected strangers. There is no effective treatment and no cure, so the best plan is to avoid getting the virus. If you can’t avoid getting it, the vaccine gives protection to keep you from getting seriously sick and to keep you from dying.
The two approved vaccines were developed by a new kind of technology. This makes some people nervous, but every medication, every treatment, and every vaccine was once new technology. New science is the reason diseases like pneumonia and HIV/AIDS that were once always fatal can now be treated. Following the science is why we no longer are concerned about polio and smallpox. With science, in time we will be less concerned about coronavirus.
Many Americans of all colors, ethnicities, from all walks of life and at all educational levels are nervous about taking the vaccination. Many are confused by what seems to be changing messages, and some have reason to distrust their healthcare system. For Black Americans in particular, this is about racism and our collective, and personal experiences with racism in healthcare. We are in the difficult position of having to be alert for racism so that we can gain the benefits that healthcare offers us.
As physicians, we study and trust the science, and we know this pandemic will not be cut short unless people are vaccinated. As Black physicians, we know that there is racism in medicine and we bear the additional responsibility of guiding our patients and our community to health in spite of racism in the system.
Black people have been and continue to be mistreated. We know when we have been mistreated and it’s time to talk about those experiences with our friends, relatives, and trusted advisors, to compare their experiences with our own, and to make change where we can and where we must. Many of us tolerate substandard care and second-class treatment. In some cases, we have no choice, but we should look for choices and demand positive change. We need to seek a safe place to get care with people we can trust.
The pandemic has exposed racism, and inequities. We must do everything we can to fight back. Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands and get a vaccine.