The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans. According to the CDC, black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at 2.8x the rate of white Americans. They are 1.4x more likely to get infected with the virus and 3.7x more likely to wind up in the hospital with severe illness. That’s because African Americans tend to live in more urban areas where social distancing can be a challenge. They are also more likely to work on the front lines in-person, instead of working from the safety of their own homes.
Now that two major vaccines for COVID-19 are making their way through the approval process, the U.S. and other nations need to work on convincing vulnerable people to take their doses, especially African Americans. Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vaccines have been running rampant online, and experts say black and brown Americans are much more likely to be affected by this misinformation than their white counterparts.
That’s why Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s become the face of the fight against the pandemic, has been spending his precious time speaking directly to leaders in the African American community, addressing their concerns about the vaccine. He is also holding a virtual event on December 8th at Facebook.com/BlackDoctor.org where he will talk to prominent members of the black community about these issues.
Shoring Up Support Among Black Americans
Black Americans continue to face obstacles and bias when accessing medical care. Just a small percentage of doctors and physicians identify as African American, further compounding the problem.
A recent study from the COVID Collaborative, a massive public education campaign focused on getting people vaccinated for the virus, found that just 14% of Black Americans said they thought a coronavirus vaccine would be safe.
In a poll of all Americans, the organization found that 86% believe that a vaccine will be effective in curbing the virus, yet only about a third said they plan on getting vaccinated themselves.
Clearly, the healthcare industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to convincing people to take the vaccine, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
In response to the results of the survey, Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Boston asked Dr. Fauci to talk to her parishioners via Zoom regarding their concerns about the vaccine.
“I was really surprised at how many parishioners, how many people, not just in the church, but in the community, said they weren’t going to take the vaccine,” Rev. Walker said. “So, I wanted to do something about that because I sincerely believe we need to take it.”
As we get closer to having a working vaccine, the black community is coming together to address these concerns head-on. The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 recently sent a message to the companies making the vaccine, telling the companies that they must earn the trust of Black Americans.
For Rev. Walker and her community, these issues run deep and will take a while to overcome.
“It’s ironic, but the very reason that we feel we’re getting sicker [with COVID-19] is because we feel we haven’t been properly dealt with in the healthcare arena,” Walker said. “Now, you add to that the political situation, so you have a perfect storm of problems in my community of wanting to take this vaccine.”
During the Zoom meeting, Dr. Fauci told churchgoers that he understands the pain and suffering the virus has caused the black community over the last ten months, which is why they need to take the vaccine when it becomes available.
“It is something that is really extraordinarily unfortunate, and the reasons for that, I do hope when this is all over, we address, mainly the social determinants of health and the inequities that you’ve been faced with essentially forever,” Fauci said. “Don’t deprive yourself of the advantage of an extraordinarily important advance in science by not getting vaccinated. Protect yourselves, your family and your community.”
Rev. Walker says she heard from her parishioners that they were swayed by Dr. Fauci’s words. Some even said they would rethink their plans not to get vaccinated.
“There is a growing distrust about everything in this country,” Rev. Walker said. “I don’t think it’s limited to African Americans or people of color. I think it’s across culture, across race. And that has to be fixed.”
A Discussion on Facebook Live
Dr. Fauci is only getting started when it comes to curbing distrust among African Americans.
He’s hosting a virtual discussion on Facebook Live on December 8th where he’ll be speaking with some of the most respected healthcare professionals in the black community, including Dr. Wayne Frederick of Howard University, one of the country’s most prestigious historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Marc Morial from the National Urban League, Ambrose Lane, Jr. from the Health Alliance Network and Black Coalition Against COVID-19, and Dr. Siham Mahgoub from Howard University.
You can watch the entire discussion starting at 6 PM ET at Facebook.com/BlackDoctor.org.