Skip to main content.

Summa Doctors Address The Black Community’s Hesitancy With The COVID-19 Vaccine [Podcast]

Posted February 10, 2021

Drs. Yoleetah and George Ilodi

Listen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast.

Drs. Yoleetah and George Ilodi share their racial and medical perspectives about why they believe the vaccine is important for our black community.

Featured Guests:

Yoleetah Ilodi, MD | George Ilodi, DO

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi grew up in Northeast Ohio and attended University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She completed residency at Summa Health System Akron Campus. In 2012, she completed a fellowship in geriatric medicine and practices in geriatric medicine. 

Dr. George Ilodi grew up in Northeast Ohio went to Ohio University for undergrad and Ohio University College of Medicine. From medical school he completed a residency in internal medicine as Summa in Health System and now practices as a hospitalist at Barberton. He and his wife Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi have three beautiful children and live in Akron. They dedicate their lives to improving the Akron community.


Scott Webb: Though news of the COVID-19 vaccines reaching arms across America is encouraging for some, others may be hesitant to get the vaccine when it's their turn. And this may be especially true for African-Americans. And I'm joined today by husband and wife doctors at Summa Health, George and Yoleetah Ilodi. They're going to help us understand how history has created this hesitancy and encourage African-Americans and all of us to get the vaccine when it's our turn.

This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Thank you both for joining me. I know you both received the COVID-19 vaccine, which is awesome. I'll start with you, Dr. Yoleetah. How was it? And were there any side effects?

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: Summa made it very easy for us. And I think that's the case nationally. We signed up in a time slot. We were able to go into our own building right there at Summa. And we had the shot. The shot probably took seconds. It felt like a shot and, like any other shot, there was a little bit of arm tenderness in the area, but I probably had tenderness for maybe 30 minutes and then I didn't feel anything from that point on.

Scott Webb: Oh, that's good to hear. And Dr. George, how was it for you?

Dr. George Ilodi: Like getting a flu shot. I got mine at a Summa facility. I know with the Moderna vaccine, I got both my vaccinations and both times, other than some arm soreness that lasted 24 hours, I felt fine.

Scott Webb: That's great and good to know that you didn't have any side effects, nothing out of the ordinary. Very similar to getting a flu vaccine, let's say. You mentioned getting the Moderna vaccine, and I've seen a lot of chatter on social media and in the mainstream media. People concerned or wondering, "Well, you know, should I get Moderna? Should I get Pfizer?" And of course, the response has been, "Listen, you get what you get," right? When you get there, whatever they have is what they have. Do you have any feelings one way or the other about Moderna, Pfizer or some of the other vaccines we're hearing about?

Dr. George Ilodi: Well, Moderna and Pfizer are essentially identical. So they basically have a 95% efficacy in terms of preventing deadly effects of coronavirus. And I would even say that that's even a conservative estimate. That 95%, I think it's even higher. It's almost close to a hundred percent. If you get it, you know, where you can prevent your chances of dying from this virus. That's with the Pfizer and Moderna, I can't speak for the other vaccines because they're currently in trials. So the data on those are still being compiled. But at least for the Pfizer, Moderna, they're pretty much the same. I mean, Yoleetah, what would you say about that? Would you agree?

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: I agree. They both are built from the same platform, which is that mRNA and the spike protein. They both are pretty efficacious, 95% for the Pfizer and about 94% for the Morderna. There's some general differences on when you take the second shot, Morderna is going to be 28 days versus the Pfizer, which is 21 days. But otherwise, there's not too many other differences.

Scott Webb: Yeah. And to me, knowing how much that COVID-19 has affected all of our lives over this past almost a year now, I would think, you know, that getting the vaccine, people couldn't do that fast enough. But the truth is that there is a lot of hesitancy out there. And specifically, we're going to talk about the black community and the hesitancy in the black community about the vaccines. But just in general, upfront here, Dr. Yoleetah, why do you think people are hesitant about getting the vaccine?

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: Well, just to review some of our history, I'm a Black American. And if you look at some of our historic past, medicine in its institution did not build a lot of trust. Trust is earned. And if you can look historically at some of the things that have happened, and not just so much that has happened in the last four centuries, but things that happens every day to our patients, where we discuss things like health disparities. I think that's what builds a disconnect. It breeds mistrust. And so I think that when you come up with a vaccine, as I'm trying to put my perspective, it's a delicate balance. I'm trying to put a perspective, both as a physician and as a black individual. I just feel that with that history that we know of, we're not going to be as trustworthy to take a vaccine that has been produced so quickly.

Scott Webb: Yeah, Dr. George, I wanted to hear your perspective on this. For black Americans, they can't just compartmentalize and limit their thinking about this to the COVID-19 vaccine. As your wife pointed out, we're talking about 400 years or more, and what's still going on in this country. So how do we convince them despite their reservations and hesitancy that the vaccine is for them?

Dr. George Ilodi: I agree a hundred percent with my wife on what she said, and to piggyback off of what she said, if you were to ask me last summer in July, I'm African-American, I would have told you a hundred percent, "I'm not getting this vaccine."

The history of vaccine development prior to this year, the average time of coming up with a vaccine from trial to the population is like four years. So for them to say that there'll be a vaccine in under a year, I didn't really trust it. However, I went back and brushed up on my biochem, microbiology and looked at all the data coming out of all these trials and came to the conclusion and weighed that against the risk-benefit, the risk of potentially dying if I contract the virus.

I work in a COVID unit. So I'm around patients every day that have COVID. Patients that are sick with high flow nasal cannula, ending up having to send them to the unit and put them on a ventilator. I'm around these patients. That risk of potentially contracting the virus and dying, you weigh that against a potential side effect, the vaccine not being as efficacious as not having a vaccine, it was a no-brainer. I haven't seen anybody that has died from getting this COVID vaccine. But there's been about 400,000 people that have died in this country, over 400,000 of the coronavirus. So if you look at it, you got to step back and take it into perspective in terms of what is the risk-benefit and it's a no brainer.

Now, with that being said, my wife and I and a lot of other African-American physicians are educated to where we would know where to go and get that data. Most people are not doctors and scientists. So the African-American community does have hesitancy when it comes to accepting something at face value, because so many times throughout history, Tuskegee experiment, even how world-renowned surgeons back in the day where they will perfect their skillset on African-Americans without anesthesia. We were almost viewed as Guinea pigs in terms of how we've advanced medicine to today. And we don't want to be Guinea pigs. Like African-Americans don't want to be experimented on, you know, to see if this vaccine works.

Not that this vaccine is that, it is upon us, it's upon the medical community and everyone. Whether they'd be African-American, Caucasian, Indian, whatever your race, creed, it is upon us to educate, like go out there and actively. You have to convince a people that has been over 400 plus years, you know, even to this day, not receiving the same level of healthcare that their white counterparts have. You have to go out and convince them. When the coronavirus first came out, people were saying not to wear masks, but then people were saying, "Wear a mask." There was a lot of conflicting recommendations coming out. So that in itself adds to more skepticism from the African-American community. Does that make sense?

Scott Webb: It absolutely does. Yeah, and you're so right. Thinking back to where we were, let's say in March last year, about the recommendations, as you say, face coverings and how things have changed. And this is such a fascinating conversation, and I really appreciate the special insight that you both are bringing to this.

And I want to ask you, Dr. Yoleetah, as your husband points out there, we have to educate people. We have to convince them. So how do we do that? How do we convince African-Americans and all Americans, but specifically African-Americans, how do we convince them that they're not Guinea pigs, that the shot is for them too, that it's safe, it's effective. How do we do that?

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: That's a great question. And as George has said, I was right where he was come July of 2020. I was kind of scratching my head, knowing the history that we have. However, again, after reading the study and understanding the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine, I moved forward.

And I think the most important thing is that we have to, one, listen. When you ask your patient about it, there's no giggling, there's no rolling your eyes, there's no putting on any pretenses. It's listening, it's understanding. Understanding that the historical insults are very real.

A lot of them, when you look at it, that a lot of individuals who just are not getting it in Ohio are 80 and over. So they remember these insults firsthand. My grand uncle and my grandpa and my grandmother, all three are older adults, they remember the tragedies firsthand that happened back during the Tuskegee study.

And so we have to remember that those historical insults are real and really listen to what their concerns are. And then you want to answer their concerns and then you want to educate. And after you educate, you, let them know, "You can always change your mind," that we're here to answer any questions, but you take their concerns very real.

And I think that's what, you're changing hearts and you're changing minds. And you also put yourself out there. A lot of us have taken the vaccine, at least the first dose, I've had the first dose. And we posted that on social media. It's been a huge call for black doctors to post their shots on social media so that people can see, "This is what I'm doing and I'm okay." Because for most people, they just want to be okay. They don't want anything to harm them. We've already been harmed disproportionately from COVID. With stats that looked like one out of 20, 127 out of a 100,000 blacks dying. The stats in some places are more than 2.5 times more than whites are dying. It's just been a tragedy for a lot of minority groups. And so, like I said, it's a balance between we're dying of this disease versus the historical insults from medicine.

Dr. George Ilodi: I tell everyone, anyone that knows me, you know, the key to effective dialogue in between two people is communication. You got to be able to effectively communicate the intentions that you have trying to educate the population that you're trying to have them receive this vaccine. You have to effectively communicate. That's important in any relationship, a husband, wife, employer, employee, doctor, patient. You effectively communicate. Public official to the population. You just have to effectively communicate, and then let that person put it in their ball court, but they have to have all the information. You can't withhold things and you can't look like suspicious, withhold certain information and then expect them to take some vaccine. Like, no, no, no, no. That's not going to happen. Not today. Not in 2021.

Scott Webb: Yeah. Well, that's why I think it's so important. And as you say, transparency, communication, listening and really great modeling that both of you and many other African-American doctors are not only getting the shot, getting the vaccine, but they're sharing it on social media. And they're saying, "Listen, I'm a doctor, I'm a scientist. If I'm getting it, you should get it."

And I think maybe some of the hesitancy for everybody is we're hearing now about the variants, variants out of the UK and here in the States. And to your knowledge and your understanding of the messenger RNA and the way these vaccines work, should people be concerned about the variants, or should we just go ahead and get what we can get now, get the vaccine now. And if over the course of time, this becomes something like the flu where we have to get a COVID update every year, we'll worry about that then. What are your thoughts on that, Dr. Yoleetah?

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: My thoughts are with the three variants that we have, or we can call them variants or mutations. We use those terms kind of interchangeably, that we definitely will have to get some type of booster. Actually Madonna and Pfizer are both talking about some type of booster to be able to cover three different types that we know of.

And there actually may be many, many more, different types of new patients, but that's already kind of on the horizon as of right now. But I definitely think that at some point in the future, we're going to need boosters, to be able to keep up with these mutations.

Dr. George Ilodi: Yoleetah, you hit it on the head. So right now, the Pfizer and the Modera are pretty much effective. With the early studies, like Yoleetah was saying, as time goes and this virus jumps from person to person, it increases the chance of mutation. So the slower we are at vaccinating, getting to herd immunity, that increases the likelihood, the chances of a variant escaping through that is not covered by the current vaccines that are out there. That's just science. That's just how it happens.

So the more times that you select out for a virus, it jumps from person to person. The virus wants to just get to a person and multiply. So if it's continuously doing that, there's going to be mutations. That's what's going to happen. So the hope is that the mutation doesn't come because you know, widespread disease, but it's a race. Right now, there's a race. There's like a boom, the gunshot went off and it's a race of us getting into herd immunity versus a strain mutating that is not covered by that vaccine, that vaccines that we have available.

Once we can get to herd immunity where it essentially halts rapid jump of that virus from person to person, we're good. But we're not there. We're nowhere near there. I think we've only vaccinated 1% of the United States population. One percent. We have to get to 75%. So we have a long way to go. And we're seeing these variants pop up. So the quicker we get to herd immunity, the better chances we have at preventing a strain developing that is not covered. And like Yoleetah said, this is probably going to be a situation where this is like the flu and we get an annual booster to help protect you against the different strains. I think Moderna is already working on one.

Scott Webb: Yeah. I think you're right. I think that boosters are probably in our future. I think that face coverings are still going to be in our future for quite a while and, obviously, washing hands, distancing, all the stuff that has proven to be somewhat effective at least against COVID-19. And this is really such a fascinating conversation. I feel like I could talk to you both all day about this, but it's a podcast and we do need to wrap things up here.

So as we get close to wrapping up, I'll give you both kind of a final word on COVID-19, the vaccines, why we want members of the Black community to trust and believe if African-American doctors are getting the shot, then they can and should get it too. What else can we tell people today? George, first last word to you.

Dr. George Ilodi: In summary, pretty much ask questions. If you have some hesitancy, if you have a question about the vaccine, don't just close off your ears, don't just not read, don't just say I'm not getting it, blissful ignorance. Ask questions, go to your health care provider, call your doctor, or make an appointment just to talk about COVID-19 vaccines.

They'll see you, they'll bring you into the office, and that whole visit will be a discussion on the COVID-19 vaccine, and if you should get it. And become educated, inform yourself. And I promise you, if after you do all of those things, you should come to a conclusion that is safe enough to where you should get it yourself. And the risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying, you know, that's what you have to weigh it against. Weigh it against the chances of you getting that virus and death versus the vaccine. It should be a pretty easy decision to make.

Scott Webb: You know, and you're so right. It does seem like it should be an easy one. But as we've gone through today and talked about kind of making our way through this, it's not as easy for everybody, but as you say again, weighing it out against death, you know. If doctors are doing it, if they would recommend it to the members of their own family, then it must be safe and effective for all of us.

Dr. George Ilodi: And also, it's different for us healthcare providers to look at studies and scientific data and we're able to interpret those readings. So, you know, the lay person might not because they don't have the educational background to interpret those studies, so they might not take interest. But in those situations, talk to your healthcare provider. That healthcare provider will be able to interpret those studies and basically communicate the results to you. Put it in terms that you would understand, so you can also be informed.

Scott Webb: Yeah, I think you're right. The answers are out there. We just have to ask the questions. And Dr. Yoleetah, I'm going to give a last word to you today. I have found this to be so educational and fascinating, and again, a lot more we could probably talk about, but hopefully we've at least got the conversation going today and convince some people to get the shot when it's their turn. So a last word to you.

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: Love that. And that's very important. You know, we have to wait our turn, right? I would definitely say that just thinking about that one in 735 black Americans have died of COVID, we don't want that number to continue and with our best efforts and with the best efforts of black scientists as Dr. Corbett, who is one of the black scientists who was on the front lines making the vaccine and then many black doctors that are on the front line taking care of patients, this is our best bet to stop the dying of the Black community and many other communities as well.

Scott Webb: Yeah, and I couldn't agree more. And as I said, it's such a pleasure to have you both on. I have found this to be so educational and really inspirational when I hear doctors modeling the right things for all of us, and you're saying to the African-American communities out there, "Hey, folks, we were hesitant to, but we did our research. We did our homework. We're sharing it with you. We got the shot. We're good. We're fine. It's, you know, effective for everybody. So please, when it's your turn, get it. Whether it's Moderna, Pfizer, whatever it is, get the shot. Let's save lives. Let's stop the dying." Really appreciate your time, both of you, so much today and you both stay well.

Dr. Yoleetah Ilodi: Thank you so much, Scott. You have a great day.

Dr. George Ilodi: Thank you.

Scott Webb: For the latest on COVID vaccine information, go to And if you found this podcast helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the entire podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well. And we'll talk again next time.

Healthy VitalsListen to more podcasts.


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.