Tomeka Barbour is a Geriatric Nursing Assistant at Genesis Elder Care in MD. She has been in the healthcare field for 18 years. She said she considered leaving nursing after seeing the deaths of so many residents in her nursing home, but decided not to give up because she loved what she did. She described the pain of not being able to do anything while families watched their loved ones die. What stood out to me was when she said, “We gotta do what we gotta do, but it just takes a toll on us.” Although Tomeka was nervous about getting the COVID vaccine, due to pre-existing conditions including asthma, she said it represented hope and protection from the virus.
I spoke to several co-workers, friends, and family who are not in healthcare and found there is a lot of hesitancy around getting the COVID-19 vaccine. However, over 85% of my peers have gotten vaccinated in the last few weeks now that it is available. Their reasons? They are doing it for their family. To protect the ones they love.
It wasn’t until this moment I realized nobody I know has admitted to taking the vaccine for themselves. In true nurse form, we always put everyone before ourselves, don’t we? It’s like an unwritten rule that is taught but never mentioned. We chose a selfless career to help others regardless of the fact that it takes such a toll on our minds and bodies. We know going in that we want to impact the lives of others, that we want to make a difference and help someone, even if it’s in the smallest ways. But we never fully understand how it will affect us long term which seems to be the common thread in this vaccine conversation.
While many people are running out to get the shot, there are still a considerable number of people that are waiting or have simply declined the vaccine, because of the unknown effects.
As a nurse, I get questions about how it will affect people with pre-existing conditions and my best response is for them to confer with their physician, because in reality, we all have no idea.
At the end of the day, everyone has their own personal reasons for why they are or are not getting the vaccine. Eventually all nurses will need to. My hospital has mentioned that although it is not mandatory currently, it will be eventually just like the flu shot.
Guess we’ll see what happens then.
What are your thoughts on nurses getting to choose if they want to get the vaccine or not?
HOLLIBLU THOUGHTS:COVID affects people of color disproportionately and this just furthers the fear of government and healthcare in our communities. I am looking forward to more education being available in our communities about vaccination. However, for those who are older and do not have an online presence or access to education online, I wonder how information is being disseminated to them.
There is also a lot of hesitancy in the African American community because of past historical events such as the Tuskegee Experiment. This study took place in 1932 and recruited 600 men on the premise of free health care. They were told they were being treated for a variety of ailments but the doctors from the US public health service were studying the progression of syphilis, which there was no cure for at that time. This along with many other reasons for distrust is why many African American people do not go see a doctor for preventative care, or trust doctors in the first place.
This is probably a different article post for another day but this speaks to the volume of why there is a significant amount of African Americans who have declined to get vaccinated. They may feel the government is using them as guinea pigs and don’t want to subject themselves to what their parents and grandparent were subjected to.
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