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Addressing community distrust: Dr. Robert Winn gets the COVID vaccine

In this video diary, Dr. Robert Winn describes why he decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine and what it was like.

Dr. Robert Winn gets his COVID-19 shot Dr. Robert Winn gets his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Dr. Robert Winn, director of VCU Massey Cancer Center, recently received his second, and final, dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In this video diary, he shares why he got the vaccine and addresses the concerns of those who distrust the medical community. 

Why I got the vaccine

The very first thing that ran through my head when the vaccines were available was duty. We can't encourage everyone to take something if you're not taking it yourself. So when I had the opportunity to do this, I thought it was not just my medical duty, but my civic duty to participate.

Side effects were minor

The day after I had a little bit of soreness in my left shoulder, because I got the injection there. Maybe a little low-grade fever that didn't even last the whole day. By the time I woke up the next morning, I was actually in good shape. Honestly, it's been one of the better shots I've received.

It’s important to understand that after the second dose, you may have increased “reactions,” but they're not “side effects.” When you get the fever, the sore arm, that's just the reaction that your body normally should have to one of these injections.

I think some people occasionally get confused that if you get a flu shot or a vaccine, like the COVID vaccine, that they're somehow giving you the illness. It's not true. Being armed with the information that the fever that you get, the sore arm that you get, or the tiredness that you get — it’s really just a reaction to a good drug getting into your body. It’s showing that your body's responding in an appropriate way.

There wasn't much to consider, other than wondering how sore my arm was going to be this time. But again, it's not forever. It'll be a day or two, so I wasn’t worried about it.

The first dose, second shot —it was all easy. We had professionals giving it. They were fantastic. They put me at ease, and I imagine they put everyone else at ease. They were outstanding. So from my perspective, I felt great about it.

Remember polio

For people old enough to remember polio, there was also a vaccine that came about. Imagine what would have happened to the rest of America had we not had the courage to step up and seek the polio vaccine. This one's even better and safer than that one.

The truth of the matter is we have probably one of the most effective, safest vaccines created, and it was done in a quick time. But what people don't recognize is that this wasn't just cooked up overnight. The development of this vaccine has been going on since 2014, 2015.

This is like the “overnight” success of a rock band, when all of a sudden you go, "Oh my God, where did they come from?” Well, they'd been on the road for 10 years. It's the same thing with this vaccine. This vaccine did not just come on stage just now. It's been around. They’ve been working on it and perfecting it since 2014, 2015.

Now it's our time to step up and do what we know we need to do as our civic duty, and that's to protect each other. And the way we do that is by getting this vaccine.

To the Black community and others distrustful of the medical community

I understand your mistrust. The medical profession and science have not always been fair. They have not always been perfect. We have multiple examples that we can go through.

However, I'm reminded of someone who says that your past won't be angry if you accept the future. And the past won't be angry if we have a safer drug out there now — vaccines that can do good. I'm not going to diminish the mistrust and distrust. Heck I've even had the same thing, so did my family.

What I am going to say is that there's data and facts. And while you can have your own opinions, you can't actually make up your own facts. And the facts are that this drug has been in development since 2014. It has been the safest drug vaccine that has been created. And ultimately, its effectiveness has even surprised the people who created it.

I know we live in a time of adjacent truths and alternative facts, but there are no alternative facts here. The fact is that this drug is effective and it works. So at some point, you’ve got to stop the playing around and stop the foolishness. This works. Take it. And let's keep each other safe.

Watch more vaccine diaries on our COVID-19 vaccine page. Sign up for vaccine updates.