UnityPoint Health - Meriter Staff
Talk about the COVID-19
Vaccination
A Necessity Amidst
Skepticism
Corinda Rainey-Moore (left) and Kalifa Bah of UnityPoint Health - Meriter each took the COVID-19 vaccine. After
the first shot, they felt a little soreness around the injection site. After the second shot, they experienced a day of
symptoms including headaches and fatigue before feeling normal on the second day after the injection.
“When I first started, Tia Murray and others were doing the Saving Our Babies march,” Rainey-Moore said. “It was around the time when George Floyd died. They
arranged that march and I was able to work with UnityPoint Health-Meriter to get them to support the march, but also to be a participant in the march as well.”

Rainey-Moore’s activism also meant that she knew most — if not all — of the community groups doing the work before the pandemic hit. And one of her
responsibilities was to manage Meriter’s community giving program. Rainey-Moore was determined to make an impact.

“COVID-19 highlighted some of the disparities,” Rainey-Moore said. “And because of that, we prioritized helping those organizations that are led by people of color and
that are serving people of color. We made that a priority officially in terms of how we do our giving. We do a community health needs assessment to figure out where
the priorities of our organization are. We were in the middle of that health needs assessment on those priority areas when I started. What we will continue to do is to
use information we received from the community to formulate our priorities and then strategize about how we meet the needs in the areas that we say are important to
us.”

They also wanted to make an impact in a very visible way while dealing with food scarcity.

“We were able to organize pop-up food pantries with our various clinic sites,” Rainey-Moore said. “We would hold them for community members to come and get food,
partnering with Second Harvest Foodbank. We would also host those pop-up food pantries for our staff, recognizing that many of our staff were impacted by COVID-19.”

Rainey-Moore has taken both vaccine shots. Due to the community nature of her work, it was necessary for Rainey-Moore to be ready to engage the community in
person when guidelines permit. Yes she was skeptical.

“I thought they had created the vaccine too soon,” Rainey-Moore said. “I also remember what happened with the Tuskegee Experiments. A lot of people think they
injected them with some wrong stuff, but that wasn’t the case. But we knew the outcome of the Tuskegee Experiment was not beneficial to African Americans. That
caused me some pause. To me, it’s kind of a double sword because I realize they were prioritizing Blacks, but it is just my distrust of them prioritizing Blacks also on
the frontline, being injected first. Also the distrust for me is not knowing what the impact could have on my body. I know that when you get to a certain age, you don’t
bounce back from stuff as readily as you would when you were younger.”

In spite of her reservations, Rainey-Moore went through with it, in large part, due to her family.

“The real ultimate reason I chose to get the vaccine was because my mom is going to be 83-years-old and because Bobby and I both lost our fathers,” Rainey-Moore
said barely holding back the pain in her voice. “I said that I was going to get the vaccine because I don’t know how much longer my mom has. She is healthy right
now, but I think people whom we thought were happy just drop off. I don’t know how much longer my mom has, but I want to be able spend time with her. I didn’t get
spend time with my stepdad before he died because we were trying to be careful and not give him anything that could cause him to get sick from COVID-19 and
passing, but he ended up passing anyway without us being able to see him for a whole year. And I don’t want that for my mom.”

Kalifa Bah grew up a world away from Rainey-Moore in The Gambia in West Africa. Growing up in The Gambia, Bah witnessed firsthand the impact of diseases and
has a different perspective on vaccinations.

“It’s very sad when epidemics like that affect Africa, but there isn’t an urgency to get research done to get a vaccine to help the people,” Bah said. “But then you see
COVID-19 and there is an urgency to get a vaccine. How I look at vaccines growing up in Africa, I feel they helped save my life honestly. I think that is the belief of a
lot of people who are there. For us, pandemics did not just happen 50-100 years ago like you hear over here. When I was younger, I saw kids with polio. TB was very
prevalent around communities. There were a lot of preventable diseases like the measles. The MMR vaccine was extremely important to get. When we were kids,
there were friends who died. Other kids whom I went to school with suffered the measles and died. Or their mom had the measles when they were pregnant and the
mom died in childbirth. I remember that. And so for me, I am absolutely open to vaccinations and I am not very skeptical when it comes to the safety and how
important it is to get vaccinated. It absolutely prevents tragedy and helps saves lives. I’ve seen it firsthand. A lot of people in Africa feel it is important to get
vaccinated.”

It was seeing the impact of medicine on the health of people that drove Bah to enter the healthcare field.

“I remember in elementary school at a young age, I always wanted to be like a doctor, not fully understanding what it means,” Bah said. “As I grew older, it just meant
basically working in the medical field. Some of the stories that caught my attention or inspired me were losing people I knew like moms who were very young who
died basically due to child birth or seeing children who die because of some kind of disease that were sometimes preventable. At a young age, it got me to think that I
could make a difference trying to help people and preventing stuff like that. That started my journey in the medical field. And eventually obviously I ended up being a
nurse.”

Since coming to the United States, Bah has worked and studied his way up to becoming a registered nurse in Meriter’s emergency room. The COVID-19 protocols are
very stringent.

“It is intensive absolutely,” Bah said. “Obviously safety is number one. You keep yourself and your patients safe and your team and the community safe. There are a
lot of protocols that you do have to follow for sure just for safety regardless of the pandemic. And obviously, because of COVID-19, there are extras safety precautions
that we have to watch out for, not just for ourselves, but also for everyone else around us.”

And he has witnessed firsthand the impact that COVID-19 has had on people as well as the healthcare system.

“It went up and down,” Bah said about the number of patients Meriter saw. “At some point, you have a lot of people who aren’t necessarily COVID-19 infected, but
have respiratory-related illnesses. They get tested and a lot of the times, they aren’t positive COVID-19 patients. But we saw a lot of respiratory-related patients due to
a number of reasons. It could be because people are more attentive to their symptoms and they come in. Usually they come in because they are worried that they
have COVID-19. They don’t have COVID-19, but they have other respiratory illnesses. That could be a complicating factor. Another factor could be at some point, we
were seeing less amount of patients who were having other kinds of problems. And we were seeing a lot more COVID-19 patients. It could be a factor that people
were scared to come in to the hospital. The numbers would go up and we would be really busy. And then sometimes, we wouldn’t be busy. After the lockdown
happened for a while, definitely the numbers dropped down in terms of the number of people we saw in the ER in general. Everyone was pretty much at home. People
were scared to come to the hospital. And people just weren’t moving around. I guess you could say that it wasn’t spreading as much. There could be a number of
reasons, but I would think those were contributing factors. And then things started opening back up again and we started seeing a high volume of people, a lot of
respiratory obviously. But we would see a lot of respiratory before COVID-19. It’s up and down. It’s hard to know but it kind of goes through waves. But we
consistently see respiratory cases on a daily basis, a fair amount. We just have to deal with the flow of patients.”

Although there are a lot of reservations within communities of color, he would still encourage people to get vaccinated.

“If minority communities will seek help and feel like they are marginalized or their needs aren’t being met, they are always going to be skeptical towards any
information coming from those same people telling them, ‘Oh you need to get vaccinated,’” Bah said. “Those are all things that need to be addressed that are very
important to help the community understand and trust vaccines when they come out. As a community, we still have to get vaccinated for our own sake and our kids’
future and to make sure our community has the protection it needs.”

While the reasons for health disparities exist and are real, it is important that people of color get vaccinated lest COVID-19 widens the health divide.
By Jonathan Gramling

After being a community fixture on social media
and at live community events over the past
decade, it was a natural for Corinda Rainey-Moore
to take on the role of community engagement
manager at UnityPoint Health - Meriter last April
27th. And her experience in the real and virtual
worlds allowed Rainey-Moore to quickly engage
the community.