In Michigan, the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated against the virus has not moved beyond just over 62% for some time -- and the numbers are even lower among people of color. As of Sunday, only 28.7% of non-Hispanic Black residents in Michigan are fully vaccinated.
And many people of color maintain that they have good reason to be hesitant about getting vaccinated.
John Mailey, a critical care nurse, and Angela Floyd, a clinical nurse specialist, both with Henry Ford Health, say they both had to overcome their own hesitancy to get vaccinated for the virus, even as employees in the health care field.
“I waited probably two weeks after some of our colleagues first got their vaccine,” Mailey said. “I decided to be brave and go ahead, even despite those hesitancies.”
“I wasn’t one of the first ones to go and get it because I wanted to make sure that what was being presented was true,” Floyd said.
Floyd says that stories and history passed down from generation to generation has stuck with her, and made her question facts being presented to the public. For many, that history weighs heavy and influences decision making.
With experiences of implicit bias and inequity in health care still common in the U.S., Floyd sees a lack of confidence in the system as a key factor in vaccine hesitancy.
“Their confidence in the health care system that is providing that vaccination, their confidence in the person that’s manufacturing it, as well as the community or government leaders that are telling them that they should be getting this vaccine and that it’s good for them,” Floyd said. “I think that the message really needs to come from providers that look like that ethnicity group. So Black providers like myself and (Mailey) need to really be out there, advocating for the importance of getting vaccinated.”
“The thing about African Americans is that we’re resilient,” Mailey said. “No matter what you throw at us, we keep coming back.”
The nurses, who also teach at Michigan State University’s College of Nursing, have seen the impact of COVID firsthand.
“I’ve seen families devastated by COVID-19, mothers and daughters on the ventilators next to each other, brothers and sisters,” Floyd said.
After seeing the horrors of the pandemic and overcoming their own hesitancy, the pair are urging those who are hesitant to get vaccinated for COVID.
“The risks that have been identified with the vaccine are nowhere near the risk of getting COVID and spreading it to your family,” Floyd said.
Mailey and Floyd will be hosting an interactive webinar on vaccine hesitation at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 19. They will address these tough topics of mistrust and inequity directly, and will be answering questions as well.