Ryan Brown, MD, was one of the first in line when we began vaccinating our frontline workers.
“Any potential trepidation I had was outweighed by my seeing the severity of COVID-19 and how it’s impacting multiple people in different ways,” explains Dr. Brown, an emergency medicine physician with Bon Secours St. Francis for nearly 9 years. “There’s been days where you see very sick family members coming in by the twos and threes.”
Dr. Brown received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 16, 2020 followed by a second dose around three weeks later, on January 7, 2021. He says his experience was a positive one.
“I may have noticed some soreness in my arm a day or two after, but with both of my doses, I got my vaccine and went straight to work. It may have been a mind over matter thing, but I really had no symptoms at all – no bad fatigue, fever, body aches or headaches – nothing like that.”
National, state and local statistics show that African American communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, but they’re also less likely to get the vaccine. That’s one reason Dr. Brown decided to share his experience.
“If there’s an ability for more minorities to be seen and express their opinions on things – I think that can be a source of hope and inspire more confidence in what’s going on,” he says.
Dr. Brown believes some of the disparity in who’s getting vaccinated is based on mistrust.
“This is a complicated problem, particularly in minorities because of the history – being disparaged, not being included in clinical trials, but also being concerned that they may be taken advantage of when you think back to situations like the Tuskegee Experiment. The list is long.”
A complicated problem doesn’t have an easy solution, but Dr. Brown thinks the best place to start is by stopping the spread of misinformation. He believes the internet is only part of this problem.
“The internet can make it hard for people to delineate what information is good and what information is bad,” he shares. “I think finding a trusted source is complicated, because you have to start with some type of knowledge. There may be this awesome study, but if you can’t decipher what it means, it’s hard to trust that information. It can be difficult for the average person to look at a scientific study and tease out enough information to fully understand it.”
Instead of searching online for answers or trying to decipher the terms of a medical journal, Dr. Brown suggests people go to trusted health agencies for answers. The CDC, state health departments, and most local health care systems regularly update information on their websites that has been verified by medical professionals.
Still, Dr. Brown believes building trust goes beyond knowing where to look for answers. It also means providing more representation.
“If they can see minority scientists or physicians, or hear their opinions more, that may potentially help. Even just raising more awareness about the people behind the scenes – like the names of the people who’ve helped develop the vaccines,” he says, referencing Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D.
Dr. Corbett, an African American woman from North Carolina, is a research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institute of Health. She’s been on the frontlines, working with a team of scientists studying the COVID-19 vaccine.
If there’s one silver lining to the pandemic, Dr. Brown believes it’s a change in how we access health care.
“Lack of access has been another big issue, but with the way the pandemic worked out, it’s made communication somewhat easy. You don’t have to physically go into an office to get an answer to question anymore. You can send emails or complete a virtual visit.”
Brown encourages anyone with questions or who feels unsure about the information they’ve heard to ask their primary care provider.
“Primary care offices are the best public health educators for most people. They deal with a lot of different problems across a large subset of different patients. There you can speak to someone who knows your medical history as well as your family’s. They can help guide you in decisions that are best for you and your loved ones.”
As for Dr. Brown’s family, he’s advising them all to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity is available to them.
“I do think with this vaccine, there’s a huge benefit for those that have the potential to have worse outcomes compared to others, and I believe the science behind the vaccine is very sound. I trust it with not only my life, but the life of my loved ones as well,” he states.
In addition to encouraging others to get vaccinated, Dr. Brown is also reminding everyone that it’s not a cure. He says he’s still using the same precautions as before he got vaccinated – handwashing, social distancing and masking – and he hopes others will remember to do the same.
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination, visit the CDC’s website.
Also, stay updated on what Bon Secours is doing related to COVID-19.