Black Doctors Are Trying To Convince More Black Americans To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Recent surveys have shown that black Americans are less willing to get the coronavirus vaccine compared to other racial demographic groups. Black doctors around the country are now doing all they can to create confidence in the black community for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to NBC News.

“It is not paranoia, it is not that Black people don’t ‘get it’ or are simply uneducated and unintelligent about their health,” University of Illinois College of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Brittani James told NBC News. “The reality is that their worries have been earned and will not be corrected until medicine and public health and the government reckon with the past and what has been done to Black and brown people,” she added.

In a September survey conducted by COVID Collaborative and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 55% of Black and Latino respondents knew someone who had contracted COVID-19, but only 14% said they believed a coronavirus vaccine would be safe. The same poll found just 18% of these respondents thought the vaccine would be effective.

Another survey conducted from Dec. 3-7 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found black respondents were the most skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine. Forty percent of respondents said they will not get the coronavirus vaccine, and 24% answered that they would get the vaccine.

“I feel like I’m screaming into a void in trying to get people to understand that I can see that this will fail if we continue to do what we normally do with distribution,” she added.

James treats a large number of black patients from the South Side of Chicago at her clinic, according to NBC News.

She is trying to convince her patients that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, but many patients are frustrated and confused by the messaging from government officials, NBC News reported. “I look my patients in the eye and I say that I understand, I’ve read the studies myself, and my job is to protect you and I will not do you wrong,” James told NBC News. “I don’t respond with writing them off as irrational and ignorant.” (RELATED: Americans Trust COVID-19 Vaccines Are Safe, But Fewer Than 50% Are Willing To Say They Will Get One, Poll Finds)

Black Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn. Black Americans have the highest rate of mortality from coronavirus, tied with Hispanic Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Black Americans have also experienced a larger collapse in employment and academic performance as lockdowns have caused business and school closures, NBC News reported.

“It’s been very overwhelming,” James told NBC News in response to the virus’s impact on the black community.

The distrust in a coronavirus vaccine is not surprising to some medical experts, such as Dr. Reed Tuckson, head of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19. “We saw early on that vaccine acceptance and willingness to enroll in vaccine clinical trials was going to be a major challenge,” Tuckson said.

The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 has been organizing efforts to communicate the risks associated to coronavirus to low-income and disproportionately black communities. The group also wrote a “Love Letter to Black America,” which tries to convince black Americans a coronavirus vaccine will be safe and effective, according to NBC News.

Black Americans have “a hunger and willingness for information and to engage in these issues when they are presented with the community’s issues in mind,” Tuckson said.

The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 has been “developing linguistically and culturally appropriate materials to help people to get access to testing and educational material about Covid-19,” President of the Morehouse School of Medicine Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice told the Undefeated.

President of the National Black Nurses Association Martha Dawson said that messaging strategies targeted toward the black community need to be cognizant of inequalities present in health care. “Historically, there is a saying that when white people catch a cold, African Americans catch pneumonia,” Dawson told NBC News to illustrate the point.

“This pandemic should serve as a wake-up call for how fragile our health care system is and that there is room for improvement,” Dawson told NBC News.