Dr. Brittani James, left, speaks during an interview on December 16.
Dr. Brittani James, left, speaks during an interview on December 16. CNN

Dr. Brittani James serves a population in Chicago that is 100% Black, and she’s trying to encourage her community to take the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

Covid-19 has disproportionately hit Black communities. Despite that, Black Americans remain among the groups that have the least confidence in the coronavirus vaccine, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Being a Black woman in medicine has made James “more concerned about the racism that’s rampant in the field,” she said.

“To simultaneously be trying to help other Black people, other women, and really feeling the weight of that systemic racism and sexism within my own field, it does something to your psyche. But it also allows me to see other things that my colleagues don’t see as easily,” she told CNN.

In her position, James said she’s able to connect with her patients and advocate for the vaccine.

“I’m able to say, ‘I understand your fears, and I was raised to have the same fears and mistrust.’ But I’m able to use my own body, essentially, to say, ‘I’m taking the vaccine, I believe it’s safe. I personally reviewed the evidence and I know that it’s safe,” she said. “It’s certainly stressful and certainly traumatic at times.”

Bringing the community on board and getting them to vaccinate involves more than messaging. The community’s vaccine hesitancy stems from their mistrust in the health care system, she said.

The message to take the vaccine needs to come from “community leaderships, Black church leaders, activists, non-profit organizers, who are already in the community,” she said. “We need to convince them and allow them to spread the message because they have that credibility.