MADISON — Cheers erupted inside UW-Health Monday afternoon as Tina Schubert became the hospital's first employee to get vaccinated for the coronavirus in Madison. The respiratory therapist said she’s been seeing hospitalized coronavirus patients every shift for the past 9 months.
“I want to inspire people, especially the patients that look like me and I take care of every day that it’s OK to get vaccinated,” Schubert said.
Schubert said she wants to put a name and a face to the vaccine to have an impact on the African American community.
“I understand the history and why there is mistrust,” Schubert said.
The latest Pew Research survey found only 4 in 10 African Americans said they would get the vaccine. Meanwhile, Black Wisconsinites with COVID-19 are 2.3 times more likely to require hospitalization.
“It’s exhausting, it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking but we just do what we can to make them feel better,” Schubert said.
Family physician Dr. Tito Izard in Milwaukee said African American distrust in vaccines and the healthcare system can be traced back for generations. It includes racist health experiments that deceived Black participants, a lack of African American physicians and income inequalities that leave many uninsured.
“If you think about it for African Americans, there’s never been a point in history where we’ve had stability in the mind, body and spirit as a people,” Dr. Izard said.
Dr. Izard said uneasiness with vaccines can be found in every race, including questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects.
“I think if we allow people to go through this discovery together then we’ll gain more credibility than if we start trying to bemoan people or speak poorly about them because they initially said that they wouldn’t get it right away,” Dr. Izard said.
Milwaukee’s Board of Health said it is significantly concerned about Black and Brown communities being hesitant to get vaccinated. The board said it plans to seek help from various organizations in the community in an effort to convince people of color that it is safe.