CINCINNATI — As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gets off to a slow start, some of the most at-risk groups of contracting and dying from the virus remain skeptical about being vaccinated. One University of Cincinnati doctor is hoping her personal story will convince more people to get the shot.
University of Cincinnati Medical Center associate dean of graduate medical education Dr. Louito Edje lost four family members to COVID-19. She was part of a Moderna trial and believes the newly-approved vaccines can stop the spread and prevent further heartache.
“The conversation is that, especially as a Black woman, it is absolutely safe,” she said.
Edje said she’s interested in saving her community – because she knows how much COVID-19 can take away.
“It wasn’t really until my stepmother, who had been previously really healthy, came down with COVID and within eight days was gone,” she said. “She was out of our lives and it really jolted me into action.”
Then, her daughter’s uncle died at age 53.
“He was the picture of health,” Edje said.
She’s now lost four family members to the virus.
“That was a heart-wrenching thing,” she said. “My mother-in-law lives with us and her sister passed away within the past month, and then we had an additional family member who passed away in the past two weeks.”
Trying to save other families from that same pain, Edje remained in the Moderna study and is talking to media outlets across the country. She’s trying especially hard to reach those in Black and brown communities with historic grounds for mistrust.
“I live in a Black family and there’s been skepticism within my own family, but I think first of all you have to acknowledge the facts,” Edje said.
She said the fight against misinformation is one she’s determined to win for herself, her community and those who will never get the shot many are now being afforded.
“I would love to be standing in line with them to get their vaccines, and I don’t want any family to regret, based on hearsay and myths and things like that, when the reality is you could lose a family member,” Edje said.
She encourages people to talk to their doctor before making a decision on the vaccine and to check out the Center for Closing the Health Gap on Facebook, which addresses commonly held concerns.
In April 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine appointed a Minority Health Strike Force to investigate statistics that suggest the COVID-19 virus is disproportionately affecting African Americans in Ohio.
In November 2020, experts said Black and Hispanic Americans are still more vulnerable to experiencing serious complications from the coronavirus and less likely to be tested for it.
UC Health cardiologist Dr. Donald Lunch Jr. developed an app to try and lessen COVID-19’s impact on the Black community.