Nurse Who Inoculated Vice President Kamala Harris Advocates for COVID-19 Vaccine
When Patricia Cummings received the opportunity to inoculate then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, she was both humbled and surprised.
"I have so many skilled colleagues who could have been chosen, and I am honored and grateful to have had this opportunity to be part of history," she says. "Meeting and inoculating Vice President Harris is one of the greatest accomplishments of my nursing career thus far."
Today, Cummings is sharing her knowledge and passion for health promotion to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccine among minority communities. Although admittedly hesitant at first, she has received both her first and second dose of the vaccine and is sharing this experience to educate others on the efficacy and safety of receiving the vaccine themselves.
Q&A With Patricia Cummings, RN
NJ: In your experience, what are the leading factors behind some minority communities' hesitance toward receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
Patricia: In my experience, hesitancy in minority groups in relation to taking the COVID-19 vaccine is due primarily to their lack of trust in the U.S. healthcare system. Firstly, the distrust has stemmed from misinformation related to the pandemic, especially during its initial phases. Additionally, many have shared that they are fearful of being used as guinea pigs, often referencing historical events such as the Tuskegee Experiment in which African American males were deceived into believing that they were receiving treatment for syphilis, or the case of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman from Baltimore, whose cells were used in 1951 without her permission to develop drugs for treatment of numerous diseases such as leukemia and Parkinson's disease. They also express skepticism about the short timeframe in which the vaccine was developed — about 10 months — when, historically, it has typically taken 2-3 years.
NJ: What steps have healthcare leaders taken to increase trust toward healthcare services within these communities?
Patricia: Healthcare leaders have first-hand access to scientific information related to the vaccine and are using every opportunity as trusted sources to educate patients, colleagues, and family members about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Many leaders have taken to social media to share their experiences of receiving the vaccine themselves in an effort to build trust within minority communities.
NJ: Tell us a little about the work you do to help spread awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine. What are some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of these experiences?
Patricia: Following the opportunity that I was given to inoculate then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, I have been afforded several platforms to share my experience, and I have maximized those moments as a public speaker by sharing information regarding the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, I participate in community events that afford me a voice to safely share information and answer questions in real time. I, too, have shared my experience of personally receiving the vaccine on social media and other forums and have been transparent about side effects experienced by myself and my colleagues. In doing so, I have been able to influence many colleagues and friends alike to accept the vaccine. One challenge is that despite those efforts, some individuals are still extremely resistant to accepting the information, as their distrust is deep-rooted from personal, unpleasant experiences with healthcare.
NJ: Why is health promotion and healthcare education work important to you?
Patricia: As a healthcare professional for more than 15 years, I have witnessed the negative outcomes associated with delayed care as well as health illiteracy, especially in minority communities. My experiences have fueled my passion for health promotion and education, and I have embarked on a quest to create awareness about health and wellness. I am currently pursuing my master of science in nursing (MSN) in the Nurse Executive program at Walden University to continue developing my leadership skills to help evoke positive change. Specific to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine, my goal as a thought leader is to be seen and embraced as a trusted source of information. It is not my aim to strong-arm anyone into receiving the vaccine. I simply wish to provide accurate information to allow them to capitalize on their personal right to make an informed decision for themselves.
NJ: What impacts do health promotion and healthcare education work have on a community?
Patricia: Health promotion and education are foundational concepts of health and wellness. Primary prevention, which is a part of health promotion, is an evidence-based strategy for influencing better health outcomes and quality of care, as well as reducing costs. Simply put, prevention is better and cheaper than treatment. Health promotion and education help us experience holistic, quality health.
NJ: How did you get the opportunity to inoculate then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband? Tell us a little about the experience.
Patricia: When my employer commenced its COVID-19 vaccination clinic, I volunteered to assist with the inoculations, as there were insufficient nurses present initially. During the process, I was asked to inoculate several senior leaders, including the chief executive officer and the chief medical officer. I believe that because of those positive interactions, I was considered for the role of inoculating then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband.
Patricia Cummings, RN
Patricia Cummings has been a nurse for more than 15 years. She was born in Guyana and moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago. Cummings currently works as a clinical nurse manager at United Medical Center, which serves predominantly Black neighborhoods in southeast Washington, D.C. Cummings is pursuing an MSN at Walden University.
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