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Medical professionals take initiative in COVID-19 vaccine persuasion
Communication key to convincing skeptics
Published Sunday, January 3, 2021 11:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

Medical professionals like Chris Branner MD of Atrium Health in Charlotte, is taking to the front lines to convince skeptics – especially in communities of color – of the COVID-19 vaccine's benefits.

Chris Branner MD, specialty medical director of Urgent Care Services at Atrium Health, was one of the first people in Charlotte immunized against COVID-19.

As an African American, he’s acutely aware of the stakes for the Black community, which has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus but hesitant about the vaccine.
Branner said he encourages everyone to get the vaccine when supplies are widely available, but understands the hesitancy, especially in communities of color where a history of medical abuses and misinformation have made it more difficult to convince people of the benefits. Add in distrust of unproven vaccines, and perception of limited Black participation in clinical trials that led to its development have led African Americans to wonder if they’ll accept vaccination even if doses be available.

Chris Branner M.D.

“As the pandemic rages on and we have finally started having advancements in vaccines, being a Black man and being someone who understood the science behind the vaccine and understanding the hesitancies that I’m hearing about the vaccine within my own community,” he said. “The American … health care community has three different areas where there is hesitancy amongst the vaccine and understanding what's going into its development. What we should look forward to in the future is how it's going to be disseminated across the country.”

Branner, an urgent care pediatrician, said receiving his first dose of the vaccine gives him a sense of security that he’ll be able to do his job with confidence with his second injection scheduled for this week.

“I’m so excited that we finally have these vaccines as a health care worker,” he said, “how it gives me, hopefully, a glimpse into what I see is the beginning of the end of this pandemic. We’re now armed with a weapon that we have not had up until this point as we are, you know, nine, 10, 11 months into all of all of this.

“I’m often asked, how do I feel when I’ve gotten the vaccine and I say that I have a sense of euphoria because every day when I go to work. I’m so scared about what I’m going to be coming in contact with and what I may be potentially exposing my family to when I come home. We have very, very good COVID safe procedures Atrium Health in the urgent care and our emergency departments in our hospitals and all of our primary care offices, so I feel very confident in how we take care of ourselves and our teammates, but that fear is always there in the background.”

That’s why the scientific and medical community have initiated public campaigns to reach Americans who might be reluctant about vaccines in general and COVID-19 in particular. Tailored messaging is important, Branner said, as specific groups respond differently to communication – and communicators.

“I definitely think that there needs to be messaging within messaging because the receivers are all at different points in their life and their life experience, and a 70-year-old has experienced things that a 23-year-old has not,” he said.

“One of the challenges that we have is that the younger population, often feels invincible, I have an 18-year-old son at home is getting ready to go to college, and we all witnessed around the country what happened when the colleges, came back to school back in August and September with the COVID case is spiking on campus because you have an age group that is young, healthy feels invincible, and does not feel very vulnerable to many things, COVID being one of them.”


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