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Descubre with Montse: The vaccine and me

Descubre means "discover" and TV6's Montse Ricossa helps you discover more about different and...
Descubre means "discover" and TV6's Montse Ricossa helps you discover more about different and diverse topics in the United States.(KWQC)
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 10:02 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES, (KWQC) -

Montse Ricossa: From TV6 News, it’s Descubre with Montse, I’m Montse Ricossa. Descubre means “to discover” and I’m here to help you discover more about different and diverse topics in the United States. Welcome to Descubre with Montse’s 13th episode, “the COVID-19 vaccine and me.”

Today is Thursday, January 28th. Vaccination rollouts are well underway across the nation, first being administered to healthcare workers and older residents. A recent report shows that only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Hispanic Americans say they trust the safety of a new COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve already discussed how COVID-19 affects communities of color and why they may be more likely to get the Coronavirus. Now that the vaccine is out and being distributed, will they choose to get it?

I sat down virtually with community leaders and health officials who belong to the African-American and Latino communities about what they think about the vaccine and what their specific concerns are.

Today we will be joined by Daniel Joiner, the Diversity & Community Impact Officer at UnityPoint-Trinity Hospital, Shirleen Martin: Martin with the Davenport’s NAACP, Gaye Shannon Burnett, chairman with the Azubuike African American Council for the Arts in Davenport, Jesus Raya, an ICU nurse at UnityPoint-Trinity Hospital and Rosalinda Lopez, a nurse in the birth unit from Genesis Hospitals.

We’ve noticed that Black and brown communities seem to be impacted two to four times more likely than their white counterparts in America, why have we seen that be the case? Anybody can jump in.

Daniel Joiner:

So I think a part of it is just the social factors in how people of color live, the type of jobs that they have, how they get to and from those jobs. So you think about it in this way: if I am taking my personal vehicle to and from the grocery store, to and from a place that I work at that looks a little bit different than someone who takes public transportation for example. So I think you tend to see the risk in being around larger groups of people be more prevalent in Black and brown communities, which has contributed to the increased rates of those communities being impacted by the virus.

Montse Ricossa:

And does this a trend, I mean specifically for those of you that work in the hospitals, this is nationwide numbers that we’ve seen. Is this something that we’ve also seen affect the Quad Cities in a great way.?

Rosalinda Lopez:

We’re working here in the birth center. We don’t see a whole lot of people with COVID for my area. I’m not sure about the other departments. So, I just know personally with family there is a lot of family and friends that I am aware of that have gotten sick with it.

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

I’d like to add something real quick. To piggyback off of what Daniel was saying also communities of color, especially African American people, our access to health care is different too. And the way we know we have insurance and sometimes you don’t have a lot of insurance and it’s just pre-existing conditions, it’s diets, it’s a lot of things that make us more vulnerable than our white counterparts. But then access to health care, I think it’s a really big factor.

Montse Ricossa:

Thank you. That’s something we’ve seen over the years, but COVID-19 has really seemed to shine a spotlight on that more. Have you seen you know more ways that people are trying to change that or more groups or medical communities trying to help those communities that might not have that same access? Is there anything that can be done at this point?

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

Well, I don’t know if we’re looking at a national lens. I think there’s a lot of medical professionals, especially Black medical professionals like the Black Doctors Consortium. The way they did that in Philadelphia to actually get testing to the communities that didn’t have access to it. So, there are things that have been done. But, I mean, for this whole year there’s been no national strategy. And there’s been nothing that has been addressing all of these inequities that we’ve been seeing, especially with health care in the Black and brown community. So there are little pockets of things happening here and there. Unfortunately, it must not be enough because we still have Black and brown people dying at alarming rates. So there needs to be something done on a national level. And I think that maybe we’ll be, you know, be able to address that adequately in 2021.

Daniel Joiner:

Just to piggyback on that a little bit to share some of the work that we’ve done here in the Quad Cities, as we’ve been out talking to communities of color and understanding questions and concerns around not only the virus, but also the vaccine. We’ve partnered with organizations like the NAACP’s here locally to host virtual events, communicate information in a factual way related to the virus and I think some of that; the access to healthcare services but also information is extremely important in making sure that people understand not only the risks but also how to protect themselves. So we’ve been able to have those conversations I’m glad that Shirleen is a part of the call and can speak to this a little bit as well. But I thought those events were truly impactful in providing information in a way that our community members felt comfortable, engaging with and also walked away from that if that event and those events feeling more informed as well.

Shirleen Martin:

Yes, I would definitely agree with Daniel on that. We are trying as organizations, both in the health field in our community. To remove the skepticism that we have within our community of colors. Our history precludes that you know we have really good reasons for being skeptical on what’s happening, from the things that we’ve all cited. And so we’re trying to educate, we’re trying to build that knowledge base so that people can make the right decisions for themselves. But not having the knowledge and not having the facilities and things available for them to be able to access limited individuals on being healthier and fighting the violence. And so, you know, broaden that because once we give people the knowledge, and they talk - and we’re going with the experts, we’re going with some people in the medical field. We’re not trying to build our own or you know gather data. We’re trying to deal with the medical arena and getting the right information out there, and we’re trying to help with that.

Jesus Raya:

Yeah, there’s something to kind of go off of. So the question earlier too is I think part of the issue that I think minorities are affected more than other counterparts is the multi-generations that people live. It’s not uncommon for grandparents, aunts, and uncles who live in a household. But there’s also you know a lot of children too, and you’re talking about, you know, these multi-generations that also cohabitating, increasing the risk of, you know, obviously getting, you know, COVID. Other than too, what the vaccine is like everyone said is just getting the right information and access to health care. The big issue obviously with the Hispanic community is the fact that you know, undocumented workers are scared of getting the vaccine, you know, they don’t have access to health care so you don’t have access or and healthcare and you’re scared I mean, it kind of, you know, gives you pretty much one option of ‘I got a better chance to get into the virus and to do the vaccine, I’m getting in trouble or getting deported pretty much.’

Montse Ricossa:

Going off of that Jesus: in the Latino community is a language barrier also an issue with either disinformation or just not having access to knowledge about you know, the virus itself and the vaccine?

Jesus Raya:

I think so I think anytime you have a language barrier and you’re talking about health healthcare in general, there’s a lot of misinformation. And the issue with that is obviously getting the information out and getting it in an appropriate language, whether it’s English, Spanish, and in a factual and a way that people can understand. You know that’s the big thing is, is using medical terminology isn’t going to work. You need to use, you know, words that people understand and break it down so that people can make the decision for themselves.

Montse Ricossa:

Thank you. And there was a study that came out, you know, earlier this fall from only those United States the NAACP and COVID collaborative, that says over 70% of black Americans say they don’t trust culturally specific testing and safety with a vaccine, and just over half of Latinos and feel that same way I read earlier and, you know, when COVID vaccine testing came out that there weren’t many groups of color being involved in the testing, is that something that you’ve also heard concern about that, you know, the vaccine was mostly tested on white Americans are that there isn’t enough knowledge on Black and brown communities’ effects to the vaccine?

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

Well, I think, because they had a lot of Black doctors and scientists working on the vaccine and I think some of them. Like, I believed that was Moderna. I’m not exactly 100% sure that had a larger amount of African Americans in the study than they did, but I’m. I’m just going to go by the science, and you know listen to the doctors and the ones that have worked on it, they think it’s safe, they’ve taken it themselves. And so, that part. I’m not mistrusting of I think like Shirleen Martin: was saying that this is the information that we need to get out to our community: that they have trusted voices and trusted sources that they can listen to and that they can relate to and they can see somebody that looks like them. And they, you know, will be able to better trust the message. So, I’m not sure some people do say ‘oh they didn’t test it on enough Black people to be sure’, but it’s an emergency type of situation. I think you might have to roll with it.

Daniel Joiner:

And then, you know, I think the other important piece to point out to Gaye’s point, you know, back then, and I know the Tuskegee experiments, typically get brought up and as a way of the reason why the African American community isn’t trusting of the medical field.

Montse Ricossa:

Daniel Joiner is talking about the Tuskegee study in 1932, where 600 Black men were involved in a study to “record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for Blacks” according to the CDC. Some of the issues involving the study include the patients not having informed consent, and while the men had reportedly agreed to be examined and treated, there was no evidence researchers told the men about the study or its real purpose. The men also reportedly did not receive the proper treatment to cure their illness. The study was originally projected to last six months, but it lasted 40 years. An advisory panel found the subjects were never given the choice to quit, even when treatment for syphilis had become widely available only a few years after the study began.

Daniel Joiner:

Back then we also didn’t have a black Nurses Association of Black doctors Association and some of these other groups that have formed since that time, that again have looked at the information themselves, have received the vaccine themselves. So I agree with Gaye I think looking at that and understanding. You know they vetted it, and those questions have been asked of them as well as other communities that have similar groups established to look at the information that they’re seeing, and the results that they’re seeing from the vaccines, and they’re making informed decisions on receiving the vaccine.

Shirleen Martin:

I’d like to add a little something... it hasn’t been a good, positive atmosphere for Blacks and browns in our nation over the last four years. And with the leadership that we’ve had. And the actions that have been taken. I will be skeptical of pretty much everything. And so, therefore, that trust factor comes in, and you don’t have a leader, who is promising to make our country healthier, you know. And so I think people then fly in different ways to incorporate that mistrust in a lot of different things.

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

But I agree with you on that because that was my whole philosophy and I don’t care if people think it’s a conspiracy theory or not, but I do personally believe because of the impact on the black and brown community, then less was done to us that now that kind of looked a little obvious to me. And like Shirleen Martin:, we’re going to have to get really good information out there so people can make informed decisions. And if you’re weighing all of that, then, you know, those are the things, the questions you need to ask. And those are the answers you need to seek, but since it looks like we are going to be under a new administration so maybe a lot of it’s going to be addressed and addressed in equitable ways too.

Jesus Raya:

I think they’re tracking the vaccines fairly well I know that when I got my vaccine there was a way to sign up to get text messages where you can respond what kind of symptoms you had post-vaccine and contact information so I think they’re tracking this vaccine probably better than any vaccine in the history of the US and, like if you guys have said, I think what’s everyone’s worry I think they are they’re scrutinizing and they’re keeping a close eye on the vaccine and make sure that it is you know that it is safe for people to take.

Montse Ricossa:

And earlier somebody mentioned, I’m sorry I don’t recall who but you know the importance of having, you know people that look like you getting this vaccine, putting that example forward. I mean Rosalinda, you were very like you’re pretty much a poster, and I’ve seen with you know your arm up getting your vaccine, you know, how do you think that changes you know people’s likelihood to get the vaccine or seeing okay well I see you know a Latina has it so now I’m more likely to as well.

Rosalinda Lopez:

It definitely has impacted. I - a little short story that my mom actually told me yesterday. She had a family friend that called from Texas. And since being on social media, I had a thought plastered everywhere she says ‘well since Rosalinda got her vaccine, I’m going to go ahead and get it, and okay’ and so it just kind of made me feel good about, you know, being able to be one of the first ones, you know of our color and to try to let people know that it’s, it’s okay. You know, just look at me. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. So let’s try to offer this, let’s just try to conquer this. Exactly. Yeah, what was it made my heart warm.

Montse Ricossa:

Oh good! And like we’ve mentioned, we’ve seen some distrust. So was there any conversation you had with your family or friends, where they maybe were hesitant that you were about to take the vaccine or there weren’t 100% supportive?

Rosalinda Lopez:

So, my family knew that I was going to get it. I’d say the day I did get it I got many phone calls, my mom made sure that I was okay, but they supported me and they definitely did ask like ‘hey are you sure?’ Yes, I’ve got all the information that I need. I’ve done the research that I need on the vaccine. And you know there are side effects risks for everything that we change. So, I want this pandemic to be over and we’ve lost too many lives. We need to try to get a grasp of things and kind of hopefully to have a chance our control ourselves now. But just it’s like a reset button for all of us. Hopefully, we can move past this.

Montse Ricossa:

Do you mind me asking what symptoms or side effects you’ve experienced at this point if any?

Rosalinda Lopez:

So initially for the first vaccination, I did not have any side effects except for just a typical sore arm for the next day. For the second vaccination, I did have just minor aches. A minor headache. I did have hot flashes here and there, but only I didn’t get a fever. I got like a 99.2 was my highest. But it lasts maybe about four days. But I’m okay. So, which is just as expected, you know that you’re going to have to build something with a second dose.

Montse Ricossa:

Anybody else that’s taken the vaccine, did you also experience, not necessarily side effects from the vaccine itself but from, you know, your family or friends who were maybe more concerned. Like for example, my boyfriend’s mother’s an Asian American woman and her family seemed very hesitant. So it seems even though it’s been tested they’re still, you know, some hesitancies I suppose.

Jesus Raya:

I mean when I got the vaccine. I’m just like, Rosalinda said, I just had a solo arm for a shot of it the other second one I did have the chills or as my wife calls it the ‘man chills’ where there’s kind of a little girl but you know the shakes. You know it took some Tylenol and I was fine. You know, when we were offered the vaccine. There wasn’t any hesitation between myself and my wife is a healthcare worker, she got it to my sister is a healthcare worker, we took that as an opportunity to not only protect ourselves but our family. My parents, people I’m around at work, you know and you know like she said this is, this is our, this is our chance to take control and actually, you know, stop this pandemic and, you know, be a part of a community that helps everyone. And I think that’s the biggest thing is obviously is you know we’re in this together and it’s the only way we’re going to be able to stop this is to all be vaccinated.

Montse Ricossa:

Thank you. And why, I mean to anybody at this point, what would you want, you know, those of you who those people that will be listening or watching this, to that are Black and brown and minorities to know, you know, should they take this vaccine, what would you want them to know if they are hesitant, or aren’t 100% sure that they will take it?

Shirleen Martin:

I would say, get as much knowledge as you can get about the vaccination, so that you feel comfortable with whatever decision, it is that you choose. Cuz it’s different for a lot of people you’ve got young people you’ve got babies, you’ve got pregnant mothers, you’ve got people that take certain medications, there are certain extenuating circumstances for each individual, and I say get the advice and the knowledge base to be able to make the best decision for yourself. Because not everybody’s going to fit into that same pigeonhole. And so the more knowledge that you have the smarter your decision is. That’s what I would say.

Daniel Joiner:

I would agree with that I think. It’s an interesting and unique dynamic that we’re seeing right where you know the people that had been most adversely impacted are also those that are most skeptical of receiving the virus or the vaccine. So I would agree with Shirleen, think it comes down to getting the information necessary to make informed decisions and getting those from reputable sources. I think is extremely important because we know there’s a lot of information floating around which I think adds to the confusion right? Especially when you can, you know, look at your phone and see something on Twitter, and all of a sudden that becomes facts. This shouldn’t be the case, but unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. So finding reputable sources to get your information from I think is extremely important. Then it comes down to what Shirleen mentioned, and making a decision that you feel informed about that you’re comfortable with. And, hopefully, that’s the decision to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

And also because of the fact that it’s going to take a while to get everyone vaccinated, and community of colors, even though we’re the most impacted, we haven’t been prioritized, you know, in any particular form. We, you know, it’s going by age it’s going by occupation. And don’t get me wrong, I really do believe health care workers, definitely, frontline people need to be vaccinated. But the other challenge that we’re going to face is that when it becomes more widespread. We are also going to have new vaccines. And so, it’s the whole thing about how have they been vetted is how many African American people have they, you know, use this on? So this is kind of going to be an ongoing situation because. All right, I might have decided I have enough information to use to get Pfizer or to get Moderna, and now they’ve talked about AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson or whatever else might come out. And so, do we have the same amount of information do we have trust in that? And that was one of the things that have always, always came up for me because I haven’t had that because I’m just at that 1B, and that hasn’t started in the state of Illinois yet. And it’s not really clear when it does how you get to do it. But it’s the whole thing there. I told them, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to take just anything that comes up.’ I’m going to have to do research and see you know how other people are being impacted and are affected. And so, it’s not going to be a transferable thing. It’s going to be a new challenge. Every time you get a new vaccine, and you ask people to take it. I think the conversation is larger and it’s very ongoing because of all the moving parts and no national strategy. I’m always going to be back on that.

Montse Ricossa:

Going back to something that Daniel mentioned with, you know, the communities that seem to need it most are the ones that are more hesitant to get the vaccine. How would you think that might impact us down the line you know right now we might not see the immediate effect of it. But do we see that playing a larger role a few months to a year from now?

Daniel Joiner:

Yeah. So I think, you know, it’s a ‘wait and see’ game where I mean we don’t know. My concern and this is why I think it’s important to provide accurate information to the community and allow them to make informed decisions. We know that trust in our communities of color is called into question, related to the vaccine. But I also think you know we need to be transparent about what information we don’t know and then when that does become available, share that information! So, obviously, you know, given the vaccine development in the timeline that went with that we don’t know what the long-term effects are 5-10 years from now and I think we have to be honest about that to members of our community. And I think that adds to the integrity of the conversation that we’re having with members of our community. But we don’t know, we don’t know what this looks like a year from now in what communities of color and what the impact will be based on the results in the decisions that they make today. So it’s a hard question to answer.

Jesus Raya:

I think the other thing to add on too is you know when Daniel says no one really knows the long-term effects 5-10 years from now, the same thing goes for people who have the contract to COVID. Nobody knows these long term 5-10 year effects that they’re going to have afterward too. So it’s another one of those things where you know the benefits outweigh the risks? You know, and that’s obviously the thing that you know people have to kind of take into consideration when they’re looking at the backseat.

Montse Ricossa:

Thank you. I did the original story last week, you know, on Facebook I posted it we’re always going to get negative comments on Facebook, obviously. But one that popped up a lot was people saying, Well, white people don’t trust this vaccine either so what’s the difference? Would anybody want to chime in on what the difference is between the distrust between white Americans and this vaccine and Black and brown Americans in this vaccine?

Shirleen Martin:

I would say that this trust is universal because our country hasn’t addressed this virus in the way that it should be addressed. And so anything, any action that’s being taken place is going to be, you know, scrutinized for the simple fact of what is going on? So, I can’t speak for the white people that do have that distrust, but I would imagine that that would play come into place. But for the Blacks in our nation. it, the disparity, the racism, the bigotry that you have in the health arena, it’s not going away. So, therefore, that’s going to be there until that person is comfortable with what their actions are going to be. And so, you know, I understand this is new to all of us. My grandchildren asked me because I think they believe I’m ancient: ‘Grandma Has this ever happened to you before? You know, as your history did they have you gone through this?’ And when I respond, they’re like, ‘wow.’ Because no, this has never happened to. I would say to our audience right here this hasn’t happened to us before. I’ve never been through a pandemic when they said the word I didn’t understand what the definition was because I’ve never been through anything of this nature. So for all of us, this is new. So yeah, I believe that hesitancy and our state of mind are dealing with the fact that we really don’t know what we’re doing. Like we said in the future, there are strains that they’re reporting that it’s going along with this virus, it changes on a daily basis. You know something new every day so I understand it, you know. But as being a Black. I understand that for the rest of the country, we haven’t been, you know, doing a good job of being stable and dealing with everything effectively. That’s my take on it.

Gaye Shannon Burnett:

I agree with you on that I think I’m like surely and I can’t speak, you know, specifically as to why white people don’t want to take it. I think it has a lot to do with the messaging and you know that had been coming out previously, and that people were led to believe that they couldn’t trust the science. I think now that you have an administration that’s saying no, we’re going to trust the scientists we’re going to go with the science, we’re going to go with facts, and we’re going to, you know, follow the science and be transparent and give you a lot of information. I think that’s going to help. I know we’re not in New York. When it first came out, and there was just no information coming, and I’m scared I’m looking on television I’m seeing people look like me dropping like flies all over the place. People dying at home because they can’t get into the emergency rooms and they’re all backed up. It was scary. But I did find solace in tuning in, every day and listening to the Governor of New York, at least break it down. Because that was the only direction that was coming out for a while. So you know it wasn’t happening, the same way here, but someone was addressing it, someone was trying to be transparent and people need that type of information so I think it’s our messaging. I think it’s saying it over and saying it louder and when things come up, you have to say, ‘okay, this is what is coming out now, you know there’s new evidence of this, there’s a variant here, this is what we plan to do about it.’ So, as long as you make it plain and you make it clear and you update people, I think you’ll get their confidence and be transparent. Because once I figure out you’ve lied to me about something. How can I trust you? And so, that in making mistakes are one thing. But just flat out not telling the truth is something totally different. So I think that African American people will start actually trusting it and believing it just through the messaging. Looking and seeing at the examples of other African Americans and brown people, Black and brown people that are taking the vaccine, seeing what happens to them, and also knowing that it’s going to prevent you from getting very sick and maybe dying. And those are the upsides of that, and you know to me that that’s a plus and a bonus. And you know, schools, maybe can start back opening and teachers are getting vaccinated in the health and cafeteria workers. So our economy can slowly go back. And that’s important too because I’ve never looked at it so much; how schools were such a big safety net for children. And all of the things that just fell apart because kids couldn’t go to school. And so there’s a lot of benefits from getting the country vaccinated and, you know, rolling back to whatever new normal it’s going to look like.

Daniel Joiner:

I have a thought, on the similarities that you’re saying and related to the distrust. And I mentioned this before. I think, you know, it depends on where you’re getting your information from so if you’re spending time on Facebook and on Twitter and other social media platforms and that’s where you’re taking in your news, you might catch something that is just flat out not factual at all. But take it because enough people said it and retweeted and reposted it, it becomes the reality of people’s lives and they believe the information that they’re receiving through those platforms so I think that’s a part of why you’re seeing some similarities across different demographical communities. Because of that point. Second, I think, you know, this is just a personal thought of mine. Anytime you label something ‘operation warp speed’ that you’re injecting into somebody’s body, it creates some level of distrust in the process that was taken in order to get there. So although the process, and there were no corners cut up these vaccines were developed. Because of the label that was put on it, it creates some, some pause for it in that way so I think that’s a part of it too and looking at how things were labeled. What was the messaging but also how are we receiving information and, and digesting that as individuals and as a community.

I would just encourage I know you know again there’s a lot of information that’s out there. As these vaccines continue to roll out into the community, I think it’s important and we’ve had these discussions internally as health providers to still follow our social distancing, hand washing and all of those procedures and safety measures that we’ve been following throughout the pandemic. They don’t stop once we received the vaccine. And I’m sure Mr. Raya can attest to that. That we want to make sure the community remains safe, even as the vaccines are rolling out. So I would just make that additional note that that’s important that we continue to follow the safety procedures.

Jesus Raya:

I’m hopping in on that, Daniel on that one too is to continue to social distance where mass, wash your hands. One of the biggest things in the intensive care unit is the families have this sense of guilt. You know that they got their loved ones sick, that it’s their fault that they, you know, you know, how they’re in the hospital and. And that’s one of those things where I hope to never be in a situation where I wouldn’t even wish that upon like you know the worst enemy at all. You know the sense of guilt and continue to practice, social distancing washing your hands, and get your information about the vaccine.

Daniel Joiner:

I think it’s an important discussion to have and conversation to have in our community especially here locally in the Quad Cities, I think it’s it’s extremely important because I think a lot of the conversation, typically flows through you know places like Chicago in New York that are more diverse, you know, given their population but it’s important to figure out what does this mean for us locally to so thank you for, for what you’re doing to bring light to it here in our region.

Montse Ricossa:

Of course. Thank you. It’s my honor and privilege to be able to do that.

Vaccine distribution began in the United States on December 14th. Since then, the CDC predicts more than 24 million doses have been administered, which is just over 6% of the total population. The Biden administration has ramped up the vaccination process since President Joe Biden has taken office.

The vaccines do appear to work against the variants we’ve seen in parts of the United Kingdom, Africa, and Brazil.

Health officials continue to urge you to wear a face mask, social distance, and wash your hands.

This podcast was produced and edited by Montse Ricossa, theme music composed by Gabriel Candiani and Eduardo Moretti Valenzuela.

I’m your host, Montse Ricossa.

Hasta la próxima, until next time!