COVID-19 Message from Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews - Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics (SORCC)
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Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics (SORCC)

 

COVID-19 Message from Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews

COVID-19 Message from Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews

Dr. Matthews focus her work on transformation in Veterans’ health care by leveraging the Veteran Health Administration’s internal assets and external collaborations with academic and other community providers to deliver timely, high-quality care to all veterans regardless of residence.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many lives – around the nation, as well as

throughout our VA health care systems. We long to get back to a sense of “normal” that

allows us to mingle with family and friends, have the freedom to shop and eat where we like,

and not be fearful of the person who walks by us on the street. This virus is an enemy unlike

any of us have seen in our lifetime. I am grateful for the many heroes that we have on the

front line throughout the VA that have worked long hours, volunteered for missions throughout

our system and supported our Veterans throughout this public health emergency.

 

But so many of us working at VA also live with a frustration that makes this pandemic even

more troubling. So many of us, particularly from communities of color, are seeing or

experiencing the unequal effect of the virus on our family and neighborhoods. We question

what is happening and how it could have gotten this bad. We also know that this is not a new

situation – that health care disparities exist, that care is sometimes not given equally and that

it is sometimes difficult for us to trust what we are told, with history painting a tainted picture

for us personally. We provide great service in our day-to-day lives and jobs, but sometimes

do not receive the same in return when our own health care is on the line. In addition, while

the health care enterprise looks towards research as the solution, our communities are even

more marginalized by a history of tragic occurrences which affect our ability to receive and

trust medical and public health advice.

 

As an African-American woman, I understand the hesitance that so many of us feel about

obtaining the new COVID-19 vaccine. I have taken the vaccine. It is an act of service to

yourself and to those around you. I have had conversations with family and friends about the

same concerns that you have: will the vaccine be safe? Will it affect my

diabetes/asthma/hypertension? Will I experience a side effect like soreness, numbness, or

something more serious like Bell’s Palsy? These are the exact right questions to ask as you

consider whether you should receive the vaccine. But let me tell you, I still strongly

recommend that you take the vaccine. My parents will take the vaccine. My friends on the

front line in hospitals around this country have taken the vaccine. I ask that you encourage

your family and friends to do the same when their time comes.

 

As we seek solutions for our communities, we should remain informed of the medical

advances that become available and have open dialogue that is honest and filled with

fact. Based on what we currently know, the evidence is clear. If you have a chronic disease

like diabetes or asthma, your risk of death from COVID-19 is indeed elevated. Of course there

are the more commonly reported side effects of sore arm from the injection, headache,

fatigue and fever, but the data (not just a belief) clearly shows that the likelihood that the

vaccine will protect you far outweighs any potential harm that it may cause. I myself only

experienced some soreness around the injection site but did not have any further symptoms

and was able to continue with my day after an early 7:30 a.m. appointment. While we can’t

guarantee that you won’t have any serious side effects, there are millions of people who have

received the vaccine with little or no side effects, like me.

 

As the lead physician for VA, I ask you to trust those of us who are here serving you. I stand

on the shoulders of giants who promote strong public health practices like vaccinations, seat

belt usage, and tobacco cessation. Yes, there are some health care professionals on the

news or social media who are speaking out against the vaccine, but I hope that you would

instead listen to the larger statistics that those professionals seem to not acknowledge.

I applaud those VA staff members who have already stepped up and taken the vaccine. I

recognize that some others are waiting to learn more and to see what others’ decisions might

be. Keep in mind that every day, more and more people contract the virus and more and

more die from the virus. If you are indeed one of these earlier groups that qualify for the

vaccine, it is because you are at higher risk for illness or even death from the virus, and now

is the time to act. Now is the time to protect yourself.

Kameron Leigh Matthews, MD, JD, FAAFP

Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Services

Chief Medical Officer

 

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