Montgomery Co. health officer shares COVID-19 vaccine story to build community confidence

The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected members of Black and brown communities, but those communities are also reporting the lowest level of confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

“You let us know how things go, and if everything goes smoothly with you, we’re on,” is something Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s chief health officer, who is Black, said he has heard from members of his own family concerning getting vaccinated.

Gayles, speaking to Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard during a virtual discussion on “Building Racial Justice Through Health,” said the vaccine hesitancy has resulted in him being more active than normal on social media, documenting his experience getting the vaccine.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that Black and Hispanic adults are more likely to “wait and see” before getting vaccinated. Forty-three percent of Black adults and 37 percent of Hispanic adults surveyed said they feel that way, compared to 26% of white adults.

Gayles is from rural southern Virginia and said he has experienced such reluctance in the past. He said there, skepticism over medical topics, including vaccines, isn’t only evident in communities of color.

“It diffuses some of the foreign nature of something, if I can see someone that I know or someone who has shared lived experience with me or looks like me being able to speak with some authenticity,” Gayles said.

Gayles said he is also encouraging others to follow in his footsteps to help ease concerns and build confidence in vaccines.

“I’ve tried to and we’re trying to encourage others who are part of different communities that you see lower levels of interest or desire to take the vaccine to be very open and candid,” Gayles said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up