Let’s start to heal: With family in focus, community members share why they got COVID vaccine
For most of the past year, we’ve been staying closer to home, and closer to our families, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Elisa Rodriguez, PhD, MS, Director of Community Engagement Resource in the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement and the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the key to getting back to normal is getting the vaccine.
“Black and brown communities, Hispanics and African Americans, have had the highest rates in terms of health disparities and deaths from this pandemic,” she says. “The numbers are astronomical.”
Part of this is due to different levels of access to medical care, including the ability to speak with a healthcare professional and speak Spanish if needed. Another reason for the high rates is the prevalence of Hispanic and Black Americans who work in crucial frontline jobs at grocery stores, as delivery drivers and in healthcare settings, and aren’t able to work remotely.
With many area families living closely together, without the ability to keep distance between each other, COVID has spread more quickly — taking a higher toll in these communities.
“One of the things I feel really strongly about is that we in the Black and Brown communities, we cannot be the ones to suffer the most deaths and be the last ones protected by the vaccine,” Dr. Rodriguez says.
Information you can trust
Dr. Rodriguez acknowledges the distrust that many Hispanic and Latinx community members may feel around the vaccines.
As a doctor who has worked in medical research and who understands how a vaccine is developed, Dr. Rodriguez says she has confidence in the vaccine and was glad to get it. “I wanted to get it as a point of protection for my family. That’s a big thing with the Hispanic community: Family. We see that COVID has been impacting families. People are losing their loved ones. Getting the vaccine is a way to protect so we don’t have to have our families experiencing that loss.”
She wants people in our community to feel confident about getting the vaccine, but she knows how important it is to be able to make an informed decision. The best way to do that, she suggests, is to talk with your healthcare provider to have your concerns addressed and questions answered.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and on social media,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “People, for whatever reason, are very influenced by things they see on social media. We need to encourage people to get information from credible sources. Even our faith-based partners are working with us to make sure their communities get the right information. There needs to be opportunities for communities to have a thoughtful conversation in order to feel a level of comfort and confidence in the vaccine.”
Find the leaders in the community
Irma Muñiz is recognized in her neighborhood and church community as the kind of leader who can be trusted and whose opinion is respected.
A member of Holy Cross Church, she believes the vaccines, and the doctors and scientists who helped develop them, are a divine solution to the pandemic problem.
“I feel that the vaccine came from God to make the world better,” she says. “I believe the world was going through the pandemic and that God gave the doctors and scientists the wisdom to create something to help the world.”
Muñiz has received her vaccine and encourages others to do the same.
“If people don’t get the vaccine, the virus will keep spreading,” she says. “It will never go away.”
For people who are concerned because they have other health conditions or allergies, she encourages them to talk to their doctor and have those questions answered.
“I’ve heard people doubting this vaccine. But with other vaccines, especially the flu vaccine, no one wanted to get that at first either,” she says. “If the flu vaccine helps people, why wouldn’t this one? Do you prefer to live your whole life with a mask on, or would you rather get treatment and get the world back together?”
Muñiz understands there are people who are hesitant about the vaccine. “They’re scared because they’re not informed correctly,” she says. “They’re listening to other people who don’t know about the vaccine. They’re not doctors, they’re not scientists. They need to talk to their primary doctor and get good information from someone in the healthcare field, not just anyone out there saying things they don’t know.”
Dr. Rodriguez adds that the vaccine was able to be produced so quickly because “the whole world, the entire globe, came together to focus on developing this vaccine because it was impacting everyone, worldwide.
“You can make things happen faster than when people have to work on their own,” she stresses. “That makes a difference. The processes to create these vaccines have been in place for a long time.”
Facts about the COVID-19 vaccines
- The two approved vaccines do not contain the live virus, meaning that a person cannot get sick with COVID-19 just from getting the vaccine.
- The vaccines will not change your DNA in any way. Because the genetic information used in the vaccine never enters the nucleus of our cells, where our DNA resides, there is no chance of any genetic changes.
- People who receive the vaccine might still get sick from the virus, but their symptoms will be reduced.
- People who have tested positive for COVID-19 previously can still get the vaccine.
- Side effects of the vaccine, including fever, chills, soreness at the injection site and headaches, are normal and are an indication that the body is building protection against the virus.
- After receiving both doses of the vaccine, it will still be important for all of us to continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing until the majority of the population has been vaccinated.
More information on the COVID-19 vaccines is available at https://www.roswellpark.org/covidvaccine.
La información en español se puede encontrar aquí: