Dr. Elena Rios, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, recently sat down with DocWire News to discuss a video resource series that was developed by 18 health organizations and Dr. Anthony Fauci, partnering with the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative. The purpose of this series is to help healthcare providers better understand and answer common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here’s what Dr. Rios had to say:
DocWire News: Can you start off by briefly giving us some background on yourself?
Dr. Elena Rios: Sure. I’m Elena Rios, doctor of internal medicine, and now the current president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. I’m actually founder of the organization with others. I come from California, but have been in Washington DC for over 20 years, doing advocacy and developing our organization to have, not only a national presence, but a regional presence with our chapters and our council of young physicians, council of residents and our networks with other Hispanic health professional associations.
DocWire News: Can you talk to us about this new COVID-19 vaccine resource initiative and why you decided to join?
Dr. Elena Rios: Well, this new COVID-19 resource initiative is very, very important to be able to pull things together and have one place to educate providers especially about the importance of educating and encouraging their patients and the consumers in general, in our communities of color especially, of the importance of getting the vaccine, becoming immunized with the COVID-19 vaccines, whatever vaccine it is.
DocWire News: What are some of the specific topics this resource series will be touching on?
Dr. Elena Rios: Well a very, very important topic is, again, education for providers on how to communicate with their patients from the science, from the facts, from a scientific perspective to let consumers know how important it is to get immunized with the COVID-19 vaccines. I think what often happens when you go to a doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist, is that patients don’t ask. Patients don’t ask, “Could you tell me if this is effective? Is this going to work? Am I going to get sick? What are the side effects?” And so we have to be prepared so that more patients will not be afraid of getting the vaccine and we have to be more proactive. And I believe this campaign bringing together so many experts and working with the communications in our communities that will be effective in reaching our communities is important.
DocWire News: And in your opinion, what’s the most important thing that a healthcare professional should know about the COVID vaccine?
Dr. Elena Rios: I think the most important thing health professionals need to know is the fear and the mistrust from Latinos and African-American patients about getting anything from the government. Just applying for a government program, applying for food stamps, in this case, applying to get a vaccine. And public health is now being looked at and revised so that we can have a more resilient and robust public health infrastructure. And this vaccine campaign, because COVID-19 has so devastated our families, everybody has a loss, somebody’s lost someone, that I think we have a real opportunity because more people will want to get the vaccine to protect their families. But we need to be able to educate our communities and be more down to earth, talk to them just like we talk to our own families. And it’s so important for physicians, especially who never talk to patients. They talked to them in terms of medical lingo, but not about how it’s going to improve their families and their lifestyles.
DocWire News: How do healthcare professionals break down that barrier in the anti vaccination community, especially among people of color, to convince more people in general to get the vaccine?
Dr. Elena Rios: I think we need more health professionals who look like the community. And I don’t mean doctors, I mean the health professional teams that are giving vaccinations. We need more community health workers, pharmacy techs, medical students. We need those that are able to communicate and spend the time to reassure our Latino and African-American consumers of how important this is going to be and how great it is that they are taking the time and providing some of that trust. And I think our Latino and African-American doctors need to be out there showing that they get the vaccine and that they don’t have side effects, and they’re not getting sick, and that their DNA is not changing. So based on the scientific facts, we need to show how important is that the COVID-19 vaccine can really help our communities.
DocWire News: Do you have anything to add in closing, Dr. Rios?
Dr. Elena Rios: I think in closing the National Hispanic Medical Association is proud to be a part of this group of healthcare advocates, healthcare experts, who are from our communities and who understand the importance of communicating with Latinos and African-Americans about the importance that the COVID-19 vaccine, no matter which one it is, how important it is because it does in fact, have a 95%, 94% effectiveness rate to be able to decrease the COVID-19 disease in our families.
The video resources are available here.
Click here to read more about the Ad Council’s COVID-19 response.