Two Black medical personnel who received COVID-19 vaccine understand Black America’s skepticism, but say the vaccine is needed
On Monday, December 14, five frontline workers at the University of Maryland Medical Center known as the "first five" received the COVID-19 vaccine. Two of them were black women - one nurse and the other doctor.
"My mother had COVID, my brother had COVID in addition to my brother-in-law," Shawn Hendricks, director of nursing for medicine at UMMC, told Yahoo News in a video interview. “It took my mother two months to recover from COVID in the hospital. So I knew that COVID had already hit my family and I didn't want it to hit my household too. "
Dr. Sharon Henry, a professor of surgery at UMMC and another of the top five, said she had no hesitation in getting the vaccine.
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"My thought was, why not be in front of it?" Henry remembered Yahoo News. "Why not be one of the first to do this?"
SHARON HENRY: All of these things that every hospital in the United States has decided to highlight a minority in order to get the vaccine first, is it a bit of a cliché? OK yes. But the good we want to work towards, the message we want to send is the right message. So I'm ready to be that prop when I am.
My name is Sharon Henry. And I'm an attending surgeon at the University of Maryland's RA Cowley Shock Trauma Center. I took the vaccine on Monday the 14th and my thought was, why not stand in front of it? Why not be one of the first to do this?
I have to say in the political climate that we were dealing with until the results of the certified electoral college returned. I have to admit I had some questions about this process because I think the corners that were cut weren't the scientific corners.
The acronyms used to get the vaccine out quickly were those related to production and distribution, more than those related to scientific accuracy or the process of developing the vaccine and testing the vaccine. These stayed true to the scientific process.
SHAWN HENDRICKS: My name is Shawn Hendricks. I'm the director of medicine and cardiac services in the Telecenter program here at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I took the vaccine because it was a big talk in my household. When we heard that the vaccine would be available soon, generally in my household, we knew we would always take the vaccine.
My mother had COVID. My brother had COVID, as did my brother-in-law. It took my mother two months to recover from COVID in the hospital. So I knew that COVID had already hit my family and I didn't want it to hit my household too. I was never skeptical about taking the vaccine. I've been in the medical field for over two decades and I believe in science.
SHARON HENRY: As a black person and as someone who has tried to do scientific research, I know that getting black people into clinical trials is difficult. When you say the word experiment to a black person, they only think of Henrietta Lacks syphilis. You think so many of the negative things, the things that were so opaque, you know what I mean?
Everything is behind closed doors. The people lied. They did not feel compelled to tell the truth about what they were studying, how they were studying it, and so on and so forth. You know, since those days so many checks and balances have been put into the conduct of human research that such errors can no longer occur.
I think the way to get more buy-in from the black community in relation to mainstream healthcare is for healthcare to be transparent about what is going on in these ivory towers and for major medical centers to get involved in the community, so that people know who these people are in these buildings, and the people in these buildings look like the people in the community.
I think this is important to this issue of diversity and equity in our major medical centers, medical schools, and community hospitals wherever you are.
SHAWN HENDRICKS: I know the vaccine was hesitant and so on, which is understandable. I didn't get a backlash for getting the vaccine. I really want to say that I've received so many text messages, inboxes, and emails to the contrary that I've really been on the fence about this vaccine, and again well over 300,000 deaths in the United States.
The numbers keep increasing every day, more in some places than others. And again, I think if we want to get this pandemic under control in any form, we need to get a full vaccination so we can get some immunity which, in turn, can lead to some kind of normalcy. Otherwise, all I can see is that this pandemic is getting worse and lasting longer.
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