In this op-ed published on December 22, 2020 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Camden Coalition Medical Director Dr. Jubril Oyeyemi talks directly to anyone who is skeptical about the safety and efficacy of the new COVID-19 vaccines, particularly individuals who are concerned given the racist history of medical experimentation in the United States:
I have seen unconscious bias play out in clinics and hospitals, so I have empathy for my patients who genuinely fear primary care medicine. And, still, I believe in and am looking forward to receiving the vaccine, and want to help my patients feel like they should too. As a primary care physician, I practice in Camden, and at a free medical clinic in Cherry Hill on the weekends. I tell my patients that as soon as it is my turn for the COVID-19 vaccine, I will roll up my sleeves, exhale, and smile with relief.
Even so, I have some patients who will not get the vaccine despite it being available to them in the New Year. This “vaccine hesitancy” will be primary care doctors’ biggest challenge. Though I would love to proclaim that a lot has changed over the years, the piercing reality of racial disparities in survivability of different diseases underscores the opposite. COVID-19 disproportionately affects the black community. However, we now have a vaccine with impressive efficacy data that could prevent this disease. So, here is my message to my community.
Jubril Oyeyemi is founder and Executive Director of Cherry Hill Free Clinic, a non-profit medical clinic that provides primary care at no cost to the uninsured. He is also the Medical Director of Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and the Community Health Institute at Virtua Health.