COLUMBIA - Medical students at the University of Missouri-Columbia have stepped up to spread information about the COVID-19 vaccine to minority communities. 

Abdoulie Njai, Deidre Dillon, and Michela Fabricius decided to spend their Sunday getting information out about the vaccination.

Njai is a third year med student. Dillon and Fabricius are second year med students. They said they have recognized the concerns members of the black community have with the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"The only way to truly address [the hesitancy] is by going into the community and meeting people where they are and having frank conversations where we're able to hear their questions and concerns," Njai said. 

The students visited members of the Black community on Sunday to answer questions about the vaccine and to let them know about an upcoming panel.

On February 24, a panel of Black doctors and nurses will be answering the communities questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in a webinar.

Having gotten the vaccine themselves, all three students wanted to share their own experiences, too.

"As an African American male going into medicine, at times, I feel obligated to do what I can to go into the community and have these frank conversations," Njai said. 

Dillion and Fabricius received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. Abdoulie has received his first dose and is waiting for his second.

Dillion said she had symptoms after her second dose. She experienced a fever and chills. She said it was helpful to have the knowledge as to why she was feeling like that.

"My body is fighting the good fight," Dillion said. "I'm going to feel great after this."

Getting the vaccine had a special meaning for Dillion and Njai.

"It also plays an important role for us as African American medical students to be able to go to the community and 'Hey, we've been vaccinated' and be able to share our experience," Njai said.

The group visited Plush Lounge and South Florida Style Chicken and Ribs on Sunday.

KOMU 8 News talked to the owners of South Florida Style Chicken and Ribs, and they said they were hesitant about getting the vaccine. They said their attitude changed once Abdoulie came to visit. 

"He made me feel better," owner Kimberly Nathan said. "I think I'm actually going to get the vaccination now."

The group also emphasized the importance of setting an example for future physicians.

"What are we going to do as physicians is fix our implicit biases, to fix the racisms, and to fix the systems that we created and continue to perpetuate against black bodies and minority bodies in general," Dillion said. "If we're not able to do that, then there's really no point in pushing the things we're doing right now."

They also want to push their school to be better.

"We feel like within our curriculum, we should have more discussion about health disparities and, the history of racism with medicine, and the role that implicit bias plays in health care," Njai said. 

One thing Njai wanted to remind those attending the webinar Wednesday is the knowledge the doctors and physicians have.

"They understand the history of mistrust in the black community," Njai said. "They're working to discuss ways they can mend and fix those relationships going forward."

The group also wants the conversation to keep moving forward. 

"If we want to grow stronger, so that if something like this happens again, we'll be more prepared and that everybody will be on the same page," Dillion said.

The link to the webinar is https://bit.ly/2NgQZVR. It runs from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

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