Victoria Ramseur didn’t want the COVID-19 vaccine.
She works at Catawba County Public Health helping families impacted by COVID-19. She knows the risk of the virus. She wanted to protect herself and others from the coronavirus but the speed at which the vaccine was created and approved made her nervous.
“As an African American woman I was very, very hesitant about receiving this vaccine,” Ramseur said “I felt like everybody should go before me. I didn’t want the vaccine. It was too fast. It came out too fast.”
She is not alone. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s vaccine monitor dashboard, which tracks the public’s attitude about the COVID-19 vaccine, shows 31 percent of Americans want to “wait and see” before getting the vaccine. According to the data, 43 percent of Black Americans want to “wait and see,” the highest rate of any demographic group in the study.
While people of all demographics show some hesitancy to get the vaccine, minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people, are more hesitant to get the vaccine than white people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation dashboard.
Catawba County Public Health is working to calm those fears and encourage people to get the vaccine as soon as they are able.
Ramseur did her own research on the vaccine. She talked to her friends, family and peers about it. She consulted her doctor. On Tuesday, she got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I wanted to protect myself,” she said. “I thought it was important that I protect myself, my family and my community and I also wanted to lead by example, working with public health.”
Ramseur shared her story Thursday evening during a virtual informational meeting for Newton residents who wanted information on the vaccine. The health department is hosting small informational meetings with different communities, organizations and groups to help people feel comfortable with the vaccine.
The health department has a specific focus on people in historically marginalized communities. These communities have had more COVID-19 infections, more severe illness and deaths, Catawba County Public Health Community Engagement Specialist Emily Killian said.
“Because individuals in these communities may be reluctant to get the vaccine, we are actively working alongside leaders in these historically marginalized communities in Catawba County and have been providing informational sessions and registration and scheduling events in these communities,” Killian said. “The collaboration and support of these leaders is instrumental to our success.”
The informational sessions, like Thursday’s for Newton residents, include information on the vaccine, what it is made of, how it was made and approved quickly, side effects, the registration process and information on how the actual vaccination goes.
The personal anecdotes, like Ramseur’s, let people know it’s OK to be nervous. Catawba County Public Health Strategist Honey Estrada, who led Thursday’s meeting, said she felt the same fears at first, too.
“We had a lot of conversations about it, but ultimately we know that this is the right step for us,” Estrada said. “Really, as we continue to serve our communities we want to make sure we are protecting ourselves, our family, our community and this is how we do it. … I’m right there with Victoria, as a person of color I felt it, too — there was hesitation on my part, too.”
Overcoming that hesitation is crucial for getting the community vaccinated. Though there is not enough supply of the vaccine to vaccinate everyone right now, as supply increases, more and more people will be eligible, Estrada said. When the time comes, everyone should get the vaccine to protect their community.
Widespread vaccination is especially important in Catawba County because much of the community has underlying conditions, which make people more susceptible to serious illness from the coronavirus, Estrada said.
“I think really as we consider everything that has brought us to this point, the rates of underlying health conditions in Catawba County — it’s very prevalent here … What we know is that almost all of the deaths related to COVID-19 have been in people who have underlying health conditions,” Estrada said. “Those underlying health conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, folks who are overweight and so much more and we certainly don't want to see that. The reality is that people are dying, and we do not want to see that.”