Caribbean Medical Practitioners Urge Community To Take COVID-19 Vaccine

(CMC) — As many in the global community, including the Caribbean community in New York, express fear, reluctance or hesitance about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, some Caribbean-born physicians and other medical practitioners are urging community members to take the vaccine when it becomes available.

Speaking with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), at least three Caribbean physicians — a Trinidadian, a Guyanese and a Vincentian — said taking the vaccine is the right and judicious thing to do.

“It’s important that people take the vaccine,” said Dr Yolande Thomas-Badal, a Trinidadian-born internist and Emergency Room physician at Interfaith Medical Center in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, who recently took the COVID-19 vaccine at her hospital.

“The vaccine is our first best defence from contracting COVID-19,” added Dr Thomas-Badal, stating that she took the vaccine, because it “offers protection”.

“Also, I have a 91-year-old mother, and I don’t want my mother to be infected,” she said, disclosing that “I just got married, on April 13, 2019, and my husband will be coming up (from Trinidad and Tobago), and I don’t want him to get infected”.

“You have to think of the other people who you’re around,” Dr Thomas-Badal continued. “Being on the frontline and seeing patients with coronavirus; and, if there’s anything to help me to prevent coronavirus, I’ll do it.”

She noted that “a lot of minorities have underlying medical problems, such as diabetes, cancers, and coronavirus (is) killing a lot of my people.”

Dr Thomas-Badal said some of her patients are reluctant to take the vaccine, saying that “they don’t trust” it.

But Dr Thomas-Badal stressed that “education is our best defence”.

“A lot of people want to wait to see what happens (with the COVID-19 vaccine), but, sometimes, we just can’t wait,” she urged. “We have to find a way to boost people’s confidence.”

“It’s good that the President-elect (Joe Biden) took it (vaccine) and encouraged people to take it,” she added.

Dr Thomas-Badal said that, after taking the vaccine, she had a “slight induration”, in the area where it was administered, and “felt a little tired the next day, but it was gone”.

“It’s an education thing,” she emphasised. “People have to be educated. You have to sit with people and explain how it (vaccine) works. We have to explain to others and even family members.”

“I want to get back to where we were — to gather, to sit and eat,” Dr Thomas-Badal continued. “It may take a while, but I’m glad we have the vaccine.”

Dr Clifford Young — a Vincentian-born attending physician at Woodhull Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant and SUNY Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital in Central Brooklyn, in the heart of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn — said that, while “Black people in this country are fearful of this vaccine, this vaccine is safe”.

“I look at the data, and the vaccine is safe,” he accentuated. “Caribbean people and Blacks should take the vaccine.”

“We have the most morbidity and mortality; so, we should take it (vaccine),” said Dr Young, who also has a private medical practice in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. “We suffer the most, we are an at risk-population, and we should be at the head of the line.”

He disclosed that his brother, James Young, a radiographer at Kings County Hospital in Central Brooklyn, took the vaccine last week.

“Should we be fearful of the vaccine? And the answer is ‘no,” Dr Young said. “When my turn comes, I’ll take it.”

Guyanese-born Dr Leslie Ramsammy, a St George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada-trained physician, said the Caribbean community should “embrace the vaccine and marvel at the efforts that the world’s scientists have created”.

“It’s important to get outside of our politics and see humanity as a species,” said Dr Ramsammy, who has a private medical practice in Freeport, Nassau County, Long Island, a New York City suburb.

“The vaccine will benefit the world. In the meantime, social distancing and masks remain effective,” he added.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it has currently authorised and recommended two vaccines to prevent COVID-19: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

On December 14, a Jamaican-born nurse created history by becoming the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sandra Lindsay, 52, an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York, received the vaccine shortly before 9:30 am, according to a statement from the Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The vaccine was developed by New York-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer and authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and New York’s Clinical Advisory Task Force.

Cuomo virtually joined Northwell Health president and chief executive officer Michael Dowling, Dr Chester and nurse Lindsay for the first administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.
Haitian Dr Yves Duroseau, chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York, was the second person on December 14 to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Everything we have done from the start of this pandemic has been based on the facts, and the facts are that COVID cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all on the rise all across the country,” Cuomo said. “We are on an unsustainable trajectory; and, if we don’t act now, hospitals could become overwhelmed come January.”