Experts urge HCWs of color to discuss COVID-19 vaccination with underrepresented groups
African American and Latino health care workers should start discussing COVID-19 vaccines with underrepresented groups to help ensure these groups are vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 when a vaccine is available, members of a panel at the National Medical Association’s virtual convention said.
“Some [people of color] have a systemic distrust of our health care system and may be very hesitant about receiving vaccination,” Virginia Caine, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said. “The No. 1 motivator to making these populations receptive to getting this vaccination will be African American or Latino primary care providers, nurse practitioners and physician assistants discussing the vaccine.”
"We have to be ready [to discuss the vaccine]," Caine said.
Former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said during the discussion that people of color could be prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine because they are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“People are very nervous about talking about race and ethnicity as a prioritization metric because of systemic racism,” he said. “There are some who will think [underrepresented populations] are going first as part of an experiment.”
Frieden, currently president and CEO of the public health nonprofit organization Resolve to Save Lives, encouraged physicians to immediately start discussions on strategies to increase vaccination uptake, then modify them as specifics of the vaccine’s target population becomes available.
“We should start the conversation now, so people aren't saying whenever the vaccine becomes available, ‘Why did you not talk about this with us before’?” he said.
Frieden also suggested physicians use non-health organizations to distribute information about the vaccine. Previous studies have shown such initiatives at barbershops, churches and similar places where communities gather have effectively promoted and sustained public initiatives, he said.