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Health/Science/Tech

Parkland Hospital Tries To Counter Skepticism From People Of Color About The COVID-19 Vaccine

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African American man looking at coronavirus covid-19 syringe when medical staff injecting vaccine to arm muscle to build immunization of coronavirus covid-19 for him

A Pew Research Poll done in late 2020 found less than half of Black adults said they would get the COVID-19 vaccine.

KERA’s Sam Baker talked about reasons for the skepticism and Parkland Hospital’s efforts in Dallas County to address it with Vivian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services, who says the skepticism’s rooted in medical history.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Why African Americans Are Skeptical Of The Vaccine:

For a number of years, Blacks were actually just mistreated by medical professionals. The Tuskegee experiment, for example: 600 men were actually made a part of a study for syphilis and the treatment was withheld. Other studies where their bodies were used to actually be tested and experimented on and Blacks didn't have a choice.

So there’s skepticism when they hear this is a vaccine that has not been studied very long; It didn't go through the normal process. So people are thinking we're being used as Guinea pigs for this vaccine. That's part of the skepticism.

And I do believe that there have been some challenges around just medical care in general — bedside manners or just going formedical care. We've had Blacks feel that they're not being treated the same as others.

Is Misinformation Is Also A Problem?

Yes. Social media, for example: "This vaccine will cause you to have COVID." That's not true. "This vaccine is made from the virus." The vaccines we have today for COVID are not made of a virus. Social media and people in the public who are not understanding what has been done to actually make that vaccine available are just giving information, which is not correct. And people believe that.

How Parkland Hospital System’s Trying To Counter the Skepticism.

  • Parkland has developed a plan to make sure that the public has correct information about the vaccine.
  • Parkland is providing people who we believe are trusted messengers to help answer any questions the public may have about how the vaccine works.
  • We've invested a lot in developing a website.
  • We have also reached out to those who are influencers. For example, Cynt Marshall, the Dallas Mavericks CEO, and her husband agreed to allow us to film them getting the vaccine. And they provided a message on why it was important to actually get it. We’ve also gone to leaders within the Hispanic community.

A New Estimate Says Dallas County Could Reach Herd Immunity By Mid-June. Is That Possible If People Of Color Refuse The Vaccine?

No. We're talking about 80% of the county’s population to actually get immunity against this virus. If a population refuses to take the vaccine or said, “I'm not going to take it,” then we won't achieve that.

RESOURCES:

What’s not being said about why African Americans need to take the COVID-19 vaccine

New Yorker: Why A Big Bloc of Americans Is Wary Of The COVID-19 Vaccine — Even As Experts Hope To See Widespread Immunization

Why Some Black and Latinx People Are Reluctant to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

Fueled by a History of Mistreatment, Black Americans Distrust the New COVID-19 Vaccines

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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