The Black community has seen betrayal and mistreatment at the hands of those in medicine. Many in the medical field say the challenge now is determining the most effective ways to move forward and regain trust.
The leader for Diversity in Internal Medicine at UT-Southwestern Medical Center has a unique perspective on how to navigate conversations with those skeptical of the vaccine. Dr. Quinn Capers IV said the conversations he has with patients are the same ones he advises people have with loved ones. It starts with asking whether they plan to take the vaccine.
“If they say no, say ‘why?’ and then just force yourself to just listen. Listen, don’t roll your eyes. Don’t sigh. Don’t chuckle,” said Capers.
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As a physician, lecturer and diversity leader for UT Southwestern, Capers is familiar with generations of experimentation on Black people.
“That mistreatment goes all the way back to slavery,” he said. “It’s understandable that the Black community would be suspicious.”
History can’t be undone. However, neither can the facts about the virus.
“We’ve been challenged by a virus that is disproportionately killing people in our community,” said Capers “The last thing we need is for that community, the ones who have the highest death rate, the highest hospitalization rate to say no I’m not going to take the vaccine.”
He said it’s also important to point out who’s participated in the vaccinations so far. Black researchers, doctors and nurses have all been integral in the process.
“I’m seeing Black nurses getting this vaccine. I’m seeing Black doctors getting this vaccine. And they wouldn’t be getting it if they had any doubts,” said Capers of what might be mentioned to a skeptic.
Dr. Capers said the conversation as an opportunity to share the science; that the COVID-19 vaccine is different from many others in that patients not given a weaker version of the virus itself.
“This is not giving you the agent at all,” said Capers. “This is giving you the RNA, something that’s put together in lab but can stimulate your body to produce defense and antibodies against this virus.”
He said it’s critical to validate fears and concerns, and acknowledge there’s still work to be done.
“We need more Black nurses, more black doctors, more Black pharmacists,” he said.
If the answer is still no, Capers suggests leaving the conversation graciously, and with hope.
“Always end that conversation with, you know, you can always change your mind,” he said.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.