The patients who stream into her clinic in a low-income and predominantly Black section of Chicago's South Side have been terrified by the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Brittani James, stressed out by its harmful effects on the community and frustrated by mixed messages from government officials.
But now, just as possible solution to the virus's spread is on the horizon, she is particularly worried about what she is hearing from her patients, NBC News reports. Many of them fear that the vaccines aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 will be harmful to Black Americans.
Concerns about vaccines have left some Black people entirely unwilling to take a vaccine, while others have said that they want to wait and see how the first wave of vaccine distribution is handled.
When those concerns come up, “I look my patients in the eye and I say that I understand, I’ve read the studies myself, and my job is to protect you and I will not do you wrong,” said James, a family physician who is also an assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. “I don’t respond with writing them off as irrational and ignorant.”
As a result of her conversations with patients and her own medical experience, “I’m already seeing the writing on the wall that we are not prepared to roll this vaccine out to vulnerable communities,” said James, who co-founded the Institute for Antiracism in Medicine earlier this year. “I feel like I’m screaming into a void in trying to get people to understand that I can see that this will fail if we continue to do what we normally do with distribution.”
Over the past several months, as infections, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 continue to rise across the country, it is having the harshest effects on Black communities like the one James serves. By almost every metric, be it increased unemployment, diminished academic performance or exposure to pre-existing conditions that put a person at a greater risk of getting sick, the virus and its economic fallout have often affected Black Americans more severely than other groups.
“It’s been very overwhelming,” James said.
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