Covid-19 levels are basically back to what they were pre-vaccine in many parts of the country, with hospitals again reaching capacity. Many people who were vaccine hesitant have come around since the FDA’s approval of Pfizer, but last week we heard from a handful of New Yorkers who remain staunchly anti-vax.
There’s a lot of information — and misinformation — out there on Covid-19. It can be hard to decipher, and many people are experiencing an overload leading to what professionals call “pandemic fatigue.”
Dr. Susana Morales
This week, Epicenter-NYC reporter Andrea Pineda-Salgado spoke with Dr. Susana Morales, one of the doctors who led the Weill Cornell Medicine Diversity Center of Excellence’s Covid-19 STEM Community Education & Empowerment Internship. The program’s goal was to not just to educate participants about Covid-19, but empower them to effectively inform others as well.
“One of the challenges, I think, is that there’s different groups of people now that are at different levels of hesitation, but a lot of people are just sick of Covid, sick of vaccine stuff, just sick of the whole thing,” Morales said. “But if somebody that they know is reaching out to them, then we’re hoping that is a way that they’ll be engaged.”
The internship consisted of roughly 800 undergraduate students — many of them underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students and immigrants. Throughout the program, students learned about the dissemination of information regarding Covid-19 and vaccinations, and how to better educate their communities.
Alvin Feliz Varona was one of the students who participated in the internship. Growing up in a Dominican family in the Bronx, he witnessed firsthand the barriers many Latinos face when navigating healthcare due to a variety of language and cultural barriers. Feliz Varona’s experiences led him to pursue a career in medicine; he’s now a junior at Cornell on a pre-med track.
“This was a point that was made by many of the health professionals in the internship,” he said. “If there’s a message that needs to be delivered, then it can be delivered in a concise way. It doesn’t need to be full of scientific jargon. I think that as a student aspiring to be a physician, I am starting to see that flaw even in academia and I think that it’s something that needs to change over time.”
Students created capstone projects that conveyed information on Covid-19 vaccines and care in simple and creative ways. Feliz Varona made a video about masks, social distancing and vaccines.
“I would make a personal plea to whoever your readers are to to get vaccinated. We are seeing more and more cases. We strongly, strongly urge people to not buy into the fear that people have about the vaccines that’s being peddled,” Morales said. “The day I got the vaccine was one of the happiest days of my life, honestly, because I had been so frightened of taking care of a lot of people with Covid; our hospital was 100% Covid last spring, every single bed was Covid bed. So I really encourage New York City to step up and get vaccinated.”
If you have family members, friends or neighbors who have been misinformed regarding Covid-19 or simply don’t have access to reliable information in their language, the following are also useful resources:
An organization that Dr. Morales belongs to where doctors, nurses, researchers and community health care workers provide facts and dispel misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines.
Black Coalition Against Covid-19
An organization made up of Black doctors and nurses across the U.S. with trustworthy, science-based information related to Covid-19 and its associated vaccines.
An organization of Latino-identified and Latino-serving community based organizations from across the U.S. that provides accurate, timely information, education, and resources to Latinos.
Kaiser Family Foundation
KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on national health issues, created a series of videos featuring healthcare professionals of color dispelling misinformation and providing accessible facts about Covid-19 and vaccines.
Information in different languages: