“I was a part of the expert African American panel, which is a group of providers like myself, nurses, doctors, community, people, et cetera. That was created through the NIH to review the various different vaccine protocols for the different companies that were developing the vaccine. Taking off my hat as a clinician and a researcher, I have to go home and have conversations with my mom, with my dad and my grandparents about the vaccine and why taking the vaccine is important. Being on that—on the panel—and reviewing the protocols with the rest of my colleagues, it gave me great insight. So now I can have this conversation with you. I can have it with my family, and I can say, “Actually, we were represented in the trials, and this is the, you know, these are the numbers, et cetera.” And it makes, even with my patients, it makes for better conversations because I can have that discussion with them.”
“The vaccines that are currently available were approved through a process called emergency authorization, which we need. We need to have the ability when there is an emergency to have medications on the market to meet that need. There are going to be future emergencies. This is not the first and it won’t be the last. There’s an opportunity for us to really say, “Yes, we have an average time that it takes to make—take a medication to market.” And if that’s on average, there are some medicines that take longer. I mean, and there are some medicines that we need today. And, so, we know that hundreds of thousands of people are dying in the United States alone, much less around the world. And, so, having an emergency authorization for these medications was critical, but that doesn’t mean any steps were cut. That doesn’t mean that it’s not safe and it’s not effective. That just means we needed it today. And we did. And we’re happy that it’s here.”
It is well documented that African American communities have suffered far more from COVID-19. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, substance abuse, living conditions, poverty, poor access to quality healthcare, lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables all contribute to an unfair experience with this pandemic.
Equally well known is the distrust of government, health care professionals, institutions, and science-based information by many Black Americans. The specter of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the experience of Henrietta Lacks, and other examples complicate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in communities.
With vaccine distribution ramping up across the country, it is more important than ever that Erie’s African American community have credible and accurate information to fight against this deadly disease. That is why CHN is presenting content from Greater Than COVID’s “The Conversation.” This weekly journal of over 50 videos from black health care workers answer questions and dispel misinformation that has filled social media and is an assault on Black communities.
“I think when people in their mind think of side effects, it’s something that happens that’s not supposed to happen. And when you look at what’s happening after some people get the COVID vaccine the common things soreness at the injection site, headache, fever, maybe a swollen lymph node. Those are vaccine anticipated reactions. So, I always tell people, “Those are good signs.” You want to see that cause, you know, the vaccine is working in your body and those are very brief and short lasting. And so, the abnormal reactions or the true side effects are very, very rare.”
“As of March 2021, we have three COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Those include the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, and the J and J or Janssen vaccine. The questions I’m hearing from the Black community about the Johnson and Johnson vaccines is, “Does it work as well as the other vaccines?” And the second most common question is, “Which one would you get?” They all basically do the same thing. They’re all really, really good at preventing people from getting seriously sick that would result in them, you know, ending up in the hospital or dying. One of the things that’s confusing about comparing the J and J vaccine to the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines is that people are comparing these numbers, the efficacy. For the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the number is around 72%, compared to 94 and 95% for the other vaccines. Efficacy refers to the degree in which the intervention works in a study. You know, in a study it’s called efficacy, but in a real world application, it would be called effectiveness. So if you compare the raw numbers, 72 versus 94 I know it doesn’t sound, it doesn’t sound great for J and J that it’s 72 versus 94. The truth, is trying to compare them, is like comparing apples and oranges. It’s actually not a fair comparison. And the reason is because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested when we had the mutations versus the other two vaccines. They weren’t tested against the mutations. Considering all three vaccines, the similarities being that they all work really well to prevent serious illness leading to hospitalizations and deaths. Our biggest concern should be whether or not we are saving lives. Are people dying? Are people being hospitalized? All of these vaccines are preventing deaths. If I had a choice between them, I would probably take the J and J vaccine. I would choose it because it’s only one shot. And the vaccine is just as good. I’m not a person who enjoys being shot or given an injection, so, if I can get a vaccine that only has one shot, you know, that works for me. Get whichever vaccine is available to you first. If you’re offered the Pfizer, take it. If you’re offered the Moderna, take it. If you’re offered the J and J, take it. It’s been a long road and vaccinations will help us get there.”e
“So, the vaccine, it’s not a live virus. This not something that’s going to give you COVID, this is something that’s going to hopefully help your immune system to get ready, to be able to fight. Oh, we’ve seen you before let’s fight. And hopefully in that scenario, your immunity would have built up so much so that you will be able to fight off what just came in and then you may never even have the symptom. Or if you do have the symptom, hopefully recover quicker without having to end up at a hospital on an ICU bed.”
“We can’t just sit back and watch people be infected and not try to do anything about it. And, it’s not just the deaths from coronavirus. You know, we have some longer-term follow-up studies that are coming out, showing us that six months later people continue to have really serious symptoms. You know, their lungs continue to be affected, their brains continue to be affected, their hearts continue to be affected. And you know, that’s just a level of devastation that I don’t think we want to, you know, allow ourselves to have to experience. I think a vaccine is just a much preferable way as a society for us to get through this.”