COVID-19 pandemic brings health disparities to the fore
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many health disparities, especially in cancer care, Chastity Washington said.
Washington, director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State University, explained how the pandemic has brought issues of access and barriers to care to the forefront of the healthcare discussion during the 5th Annual Meeting of the School of Oncology Nursing.
COVID-19 Limited access to health care
Clinics across the country have closed or limited in-person appointments, relying on telemedicine as the primary form of communication between patients and their providers. While some thought it was convenient to see their doctor without leaving home, others struggled with the new model.
“Telemedicine doesn’t work for everyone. If you don’t have internet access, or if you don’t have the ability to understand the technology… and culturally, some populations just aren’t used to it, and they prefer to see their doctor in person, ”said Washington in a statement. interview with CURE®.
Additionally, Washington explained, people of color have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn has impacted their cancer outcomes.
“(The impacts) are still being studied to determine their exact magnitude, but it’s people who are in these critical service jobs,” Washington said. “They get COVID-19 more often, they use public transportation… the disparities have worsened further during the pandemic. We’ve seen job losses, people losing insurance coverage – which affects access as well.
So, while the pandemic affected many people in negative ways, it had an even greater impact on those who were already facing disparities.
Reluctance to vaccination
The COVID-19 vaccine could help curb the spread of the virus or reduce the health implications of those who contract the disease. However, many people are reluctant to get vaccinated, causing the pandemic to persist longer than it would if all eligible people were vaccinated.
“Traditionally in some of these communities there is medical mistrust – not always – but it could be part of it,” Washington said.
Washington addressed the idea that some people have of a tracking chip implanted in the vaccine.
“I think (this rumor) came from one of the words in one of the ingredients. It was a lipid, but it had the term “nano” in it, so people thought about nanchips and nanotechnology. “
Those who are worried about getting the vaccine should talk to their health care team about their concerns or questions. Research has shown that the majority of cancer patients can – and should – receive the vaccine unless their doctor tells them otherwise.
Washington said clinicians should listen to patient concerns without judgment, so patients shouldn’t hesitate to talk about them. Patients should also look to other role models in the community who have received the vaccine.
“To have these models who have had the vaccine and look like them in the community that haven’t had any negative effects… that’s important,” Washington said.
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