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Doctors of color encourage COVID-19 vaccine and are confident in its safety

Health care workers, among the first to receive initial vaccine doses are eager to get the protection.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — One irony of this pandemic is that while communities of color have been hit hardest by COVID-19 polls show they're also among the most reluctant to get the vaccine.

It can be difficult to overcome decades, if not centuries of mistrust, but frontline workers like Dr. LaTonya Washington are trying to do just that.

"I am more afraid of contracting COVID than I am of receiving the COVID vaccine," said Washington.

Washington says as soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is offered to her she'll be in line to get it.

Not only does Washington direct nearly all that doctors do at St. Francis Hospital she's also the president of the Bluff City Medical Society, so she has steady contact with doctors across the city who are eager to be vaccinated.

"In the hospitals we're definitely feeling the strain of increased numbers of patients, not just COVID patients, but patients with other illnesses as well, so that's a real concern for us," said Washington.

Doctors are aware not everybody shares Washington's enthusiasm, especially with mild side affects following vaccinations in Europe last week.

"A lot of people do have concerns about the vaccine, but we have been reading the literature. Certainly the vaccine is safe. It's shown to be quite effective at preventing severe COVID-19 disease," said Washington.

Concerns stemming from historical adverse governmental use of medicine on communities of color like the Tuskeegee Syphilis Study. 

Washington's role as a Black doctor is to help change that narrative and encourage the vaccine.

"My personal efforts in improving the administration of vaccines  to  communities of color are really  just to educate them to say the development of this vaccine was done safely," says Washington.

Washington calls this moment a dim light at the end of the tunnel of this health crisis ordeal, but she's hopeful the vaccine, if widely accepted, will deliver us all back to a sense of normalcy in 2021.