As Black people in Los Angeles County continue to be among the hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic, a group of Black physicians are sharing their personal — sometimes emotional — stories to plead with community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr. Kyle Monk, a pediatrician at Cedars-Sinai, is one of them. She says the pandemic started taking a mental toll on her after she witnessed patients dying from the virus while being forced to miss out on important life moments. For example, she wasn’t present when her nephew was born because she was afraid to spread the virus to her then-pregnant sister.
“It's been hard on a lot of the doctors. They've had to put their personal matters and their family lives aside to sacrifice for the greater good.”
As a pediatrician, Monk says she’s used to comforting families. But she says she feels powerless during the pandemic, not knowing the right words to console children with hospitalized or out-of-work parents.
“There are things that I had never dealt with in a pediatric population. … [Young patients] are telling me they're scared to go back to school because they're afraid that they're going to get sick and die.”
Especially after seeing Black communities devastated by higher COVID deaths and hospitalizations, Dr. Monk and other Black medical professionals at Cedars-Sinai released a series of YouTube videos that aim to educate the public about the safety of COVID vaccines and to encourage those from at-risk communities to roll up their sleeves.
Monk says Black communities’ lack of trust in the medical system is understandable, especially with the Tuskegee experiment during which the U.S. Public Health Service observed hundreds of Black men for syphilis without giving them proper treatments.
But she hopes her pleas for vaccination would resonate with people of color. “Coming from an African American doctor, I feel like you should be able to trust me,” shares Monk, who administers an average of 20 vaccines a day.
“I completely understand the hesitancy, but I also understand the science behind [the COVID vaccine.] I can explain it in a way that makes sense.”