I signed up for my chance to get the Covid vaccine within five minutes of being notified that I was eligible. I wanted to protect myself, my patients and my family as well as get back to a more normal lifestyle. I assumed that the majority of my colleagues in healthcare would do the same. We have all seen or heard of the devastating effects that this illness can have on our patients and their families. The science behind the vaccine is sound and the effectiveness impressive. For those reasons and others, I was extremely disappointed when I learned that just less than 50% of eligible healthcare providers at my hospital had taken the opportunity to get the vaccine. The most common reason cited for declining to be vaccinated was “I plan on waiting to see how the vaccine affects others”. We have seen how it affects others – that is the purpose of a large study size that both the Pfeizer and Moderna vaccines have published.
If the science behind the vaccine doesn’t convince you to get your shot, I’m willing to try a second argument. The recent increase in awareness around social inequities has lead many Americans to educate themselves about Social Justice initiatives. People of color (POC) have been inordinately affected by this virus in numerous ways. They are at higher risk of contracting the virus due to overcrowded and often multigenerational housing as well as occupying a large percentage of front line jobs. Risk factors for more severe Covid illness, such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, are more prevalent in POC. Front line workers often don’t have health insurance and delay accessing a medical facility until they become very sick and further along in their illness. Historical injustices around experimentation with black bodies to further the advance of science has also increased their hesitancy to receive the vaccine.
If you are a white healthcare provider, the most vocal Social Justice statement you can make today is to get your vaccine. Actions speak louder than words. We need to prove to our patients and colleagues who are POC that we care enough about their health and the injustices that have been perpetuated against them to get a vaccine that will decrease the overall viral load in our communities. Getting a vaccine may cause most of us to feel a bit uncomfortable. Compare that to the uncomfortable feeling that POC encounter daily due to the lingering effects of racism that still exist in this country. For a change, let’s see white people leading the charge in this newest social justice initiative.