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Doctor inspires communities of color by sharing his COVID-19 vaccine photo

Dr. Kweku Hazel and his wife have devoted their lives to advocating for better healthcare for their friends, families and community members.

DENVER — Getting the COVID-19 vaccine was an obvious move for surgery fellow Dr. Kweku Hazel.

While working at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, he has seen first-hand the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on his community.

“I was excited to be in line to get the shot,” Hazel told 9NEWS. “I was thinking, this is one of the top ways to protect myself, my family and my community.”

At the same time, he knows that in his city of Aurora, the most diverse community in Colorado, there is mistrust about the vaccine because of misinformation, current inequities and a history of malpractice.

“The general sentiment then becomes ‘well in the past, this is what has happened,’” Hazel’s wife, Dr. Cynthia Hazel, said. “’How do I know that I’m not being used this time around?’”

Cynthia Hazel works in public health and studies access to healthcare among vulnerable groups.

The couple from Ghana has spent years advocating for better health care and access to information in Colorado’s communities of color and around the world.

“Listening to people, validating their concerns, providing them with the appropriate and accurate information that is needed for them to make their own health decisions is important,” Kweku Hazel said.

Recently, they have been answering questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why sharing this picture of Kweku Hazel’s inoculation was something the couple believed they had an obligation to do:

Credit: UCHealth

“I thought about it for a second, I hesitated because I’m a little bit of a private guy … [but] all of the past advocacy work, community work all of that just kind of sunk in at that moment,” Kweku Hazel said. “I was like, you know what, this is actually going to help spread the word in the way that I want it to. Especially in our communities.”

The couple sent the picture to local organizations and church groups they have worked with on advocacy projects as well as their contacts in Ghana and around the world.

The point was to prove that the Hazels practiced what they preach.

“Some people in this community will see themselves in us,” Cynthia Hazel said. “They will know they probably had the same experience as I did, and yet they’re still getting the vaccine, so what is my hesitation? We also want people to know that we are professionals and we have done our due diligence, so the information we are providing for them is accurate. We are definitely looking out for our community.”

The couple has also recently advocated for vaccine access in communities of color.

UCHealth told 9NEWS that the hospital system is working to make sure underserved communities have easy access to the vaccine with specialized clinics starting this week.