Efforts rev up to help build trust in Black community for COVID-19 vaccine

Hesitancy to take the COVID-19 vaccine

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Health officials want to hear citizens’ concerns about taking the new COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter with the Shelby County Health Department told Shelby County commissioners Monday they will start conducting listening sessions with the public.

Haushalter also says the University of Memphis will conduct an online survey with 500 participants about the subject.

The world watched Tuesday as 90-year-old Margaret Keenan was administered the first Phizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday in the United Kingdom.

Vaccination is expected to begin in the coming days in the United States.

A Pew Research study conducted from November 18- 29, found 60% of Americans say they will or probably will take the COVID-19 vaccine, but a closer look at the study found Black people were the most reluctant group to take the vaccine with 42% saying they would get one when available.

“I absolutely plan to take the vaccine when it’s offered,” said Dr. LaTonya Washington, President of the Bluff City Medical Society which is a group of Black physicians in the Mid-South.

She says her group is prepared to do community outreach to answer people’s questions.

“I do believe representation matters,” she said. “I think it’s important that the patient population have folks that look like them relaying the information to patients and showing them we ourselves are confident in the healthcare delivery system.”

There’s a long history of mistrust with Black people and vaccines due to incidents like the Tuskegee Experiment.

In the 1930′s hundreds of Black men were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” but in reality, researchers wanted to study the long-term effects of Syphilis. Many died due to a lack of treatment during the course of the experiment.

Vaccine summit at the White House

Washington says today the biggest concern among most of her patients is how quickly the vaccine was created.

“One thing to be aware of is the COVID vaccine has really been in the works for several years,” said Washington.

She points to other strains of coronavirus that have been studied such as SARS which has been prominent in other parts of the world.

Washington says significant government financial backing also played a role in how quickly a vaccine has become available.

Later this week Haushalter says she expects to receive some teaching material from the state about the vaccine.

First responders, healthcare and assisted living facility workers are expected to be the first to receive the vaccine in Tennessee.

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