Caribbean physicians urge group to take COVID-19 vaccine

Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up to date on the latest coronavirus news across New York

As many in the world community, including the Caribbean community in New York, express fear, reluctance, or hesitation about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, some Caribbean-born doctors urge members of the community to take the vaccine, as soon as it is available.

In exclusive interviews with Caribbean Life earlier this week, at least three Caribbean doctors – a Trinidadian, a Guy and a Vincentian – said that taking the vaccine was the right and sensible thing to do.

“It’s important that people take the vaccine,” said Dr. Yolande Thomas-Badal, a Trinidad-born internist and emergency doctor at Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, who took the COVID-19 vaccine at her hospital on Friday.

“The vaccine is our first best defense against COVID-19,” added Dr. Thomas-Badal added, explaining 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 get infected,” she said, explaining, “I just got married on April 13, 2019 and my husband is coming.” (from Trinidad and Tobago) and I don’t want him to get infected.

“You have to think about the other people you are with,” continued Dr. Thomas-Badal left. “Stand on the front lines and see patients with coronavirus; and if anything will help me prevent coronavirus, I’ll do it. “

She noted that “many minorities have medical problems, like diabetes, cancer, and coronavirus (killing) a lot of my people.”

Dr. Thomas-Badal said some of their patients are reluctant to take the vaccine and said they don’t trust him.

Dr. However, Thomas-Badal emphasized that “education is our best defense”.

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

“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 given and “felt a little tired the next day, but it was gone.”

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

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

Cooking callaloo soup: Dr. Clifford Young (2nd from left) stirs the pot with Arden Tannis, Laverne McDowald-Thompson and Celia Bramble from left at the Vincy Unity Picnic in Brown’s Bay Park, 1,000 Is., Ontario, Canada in July 2017. Photo by Nelson A. King

Dr. Clifford Young – a Vincent-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 Brooklyn Caribbean community – said this while “Black people here are afraid of the country this vaccine, this vaccine is safe.

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

“We have the highest morbidity and mortality. So we should take it (vaccine), ”said Dr. Young, who also has a private medical practice in the Brooklyn Canarsia Department. “We suffer most, we are a vulnerable population and we should be at the top.”

He announced that his brother James Young, a radiologist at Kings County Hospital in Central Brooklyn, had taken the vaccine last week.

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

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

“It is important to get out of our politics and see humanity as a species,” said Dr. Ramsammy, who has a private medical practice in Freeport, Nassau County, Long Island. “The vaccine will benefit the world. In the meantime, social distancing and masks remain in effect. “

The Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have currently approved and recommended two vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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

Sandra Lindsay, 52, an intensive care nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, received the vaccine shortly before 9:30 a.m., according to a statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The statement said that Guyanese-born Dr. Michelle Chester, Northwell Health Director, Employee Health Services, who administered the vaccine to Lindsay, a frontline health care worker eligible to receive the vaccine under Phase 1 of the New York Vaccine Distribution Plan.

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

Cuomo was on hand with Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling, Dr. Chester and nurse Lindsay get together to give the COVID-19 vaccine for the first time in the US.

Northwell Health is the largest healthcare system in New York State.

“Gov. Cuomo, I’m fine, ”Lindsay said after receiving the vaccine. “I want to thank everyone on the front lines, all of my colleagues, who have been yeomaning the world during this pandemic.

“I am hopeful. I hope, I hope relieved today,” she added. “I have a feeling that healing is coming and this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.

“I want to instill confidence in the public that the vaccine is safe,” continued Lindsay. “We are in a pandemic; and so we must all do our part to put an end to the pandemic and not to give up anytime soon. At the end of the tunnel there is light, but we need to keep wearing our masks to create social distance.

“I believe in science,” emphasized Lindsay. “As a nurse, my practice is based on science. and so I trust that. What I don’t trust is that if I contract COVID, I don’t know what it would be like or who I will come into contact with. So I encourage everyone to take the vaccine. “

Cuomo replied, “You said it very well, Sandra. We trust science here in New York. The federal government approved the vaccine. We then had a separate panel that also approved the vaccine, and we followed the science all along.

“I hope this gives you and the health care workers who fight it every day a sense of security and a little more confidence in your work once the second vaccine has been given,” said the governor.

He said New York health care workers are high on the list to get the vaccine. “We know that every day you are out there putting your life in danger for the rest of us.

“So we want to make sure that we do everything we can to protect you,” said Cuomo. “And the point that New Yorkers and Americans must do their part to get the vaccine because the vaccine only works if the American people take it. They estimate that we need 75 to 85 percent of Americans to take the vaccine to be effective.

“So every American has to do their part,” he added. “And your point is correct; It will take months for the vaccine to reach critical mass.

“So this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel and we need people who will continue to do the right and the wise throughout the holiday season,” he continued. “And hopefully when we’re around June the vaccine can reach critical mass.”

Noting that his health services are located in east Queens, Dowling stated that the neighborhood was “the epicenter of the COVID issue a few months ago.

“This was the hardest hit,” he said. “And that facility, Long Island Jewish, was right at the center. And here in Northwell we have seen well over 100,000 COVID patients, and at one point in April we had over 3,500 patients in our hospitals. It is a pleasure to work with Sandra and Dr. Chester to be here. “

Dr. Chester said curtly, “Everything worked perfectly. Many Thanks.”

The Haitian Dr. Yves Duroseau, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, became the second person to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine on December 14th.

“Everything we have done since this pandemic began has been based on the facts, and the facts are that COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing across the country,” Cuomo said. “We are on an unsustainable path. and if we don’t act now, January hospitals could be overwhelmed. “