I’m a Public Health Expert and I Had Concerns About Vaccines, Too. Here’s Why I Trust Them.

Dr. Ijeoma Opara is an assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health and the director of the Substance Abuse and Sexual Health Lab, which focuses on substance use and HIV prevention research for Black and Hispanic adolescents. She received a PhD in family science and human development from Montclair State University, a master’s degree in social work from New York University, and a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology from New York Medical College.

Here, she writes about how she once had concerns about COVID-19 vaccines — and why she ultimately decided to be vaccinated and start spreading the word to her loved ones.

You can read more from the In My Own Words series here.


The pandemic has been very challenging for me and my loved ones. I am the legal guardian of my older brother, who is autistic and lives in a nearby group home. We lost our mom in 2003 and I became his legal guardian when our father died suddenly in 2010. Although my brother is nonverbal, we understand each other, which still fascinates people who witness our interactions.

Since our father died, I have dedicated every Sunday for just my brother and me. When COVID-19 hit us in March 2020, our weekly visits came to a halt due to the stay-at-home orders. During one of our outside visits, he tried to hug me but then the group home staff stopped him because they didn’t want him touching anyone outside of the home. It hurts me to even write this because our hugs were so special for us. It was one of our ways of communicating with each other that we love each other, and that we are all we have.

Finally, in March 2021, I was able to hug my brother after we both received the Pfizer vaccine. I will always be grateful to science for this.

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