MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On Monday, Tennessee State Representative London Lamar kicked off her Black History Month speaker series.
The topic of discussion with a medical professional was the impact of COVID-19 on the Black community.
National, state and local statistics show that Black communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Those studies also show African Americans are less likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine thus far. Lamar says that’s why she chose COVID-19 as the first topic of her weekly Black History Month event.
“We’re 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and about 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID compared to our white counterparts,” said Dr. Gerald Onuoha, Internal Medicine Physician in Nashville.
Onuoha explained that while working as a frontline worker, chronic medical conditions and access to health care play a major role in explaining why the Black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, he says there are many other societal factors.
“Some of this has to do with the historic and systemic racism that African Americans and Black Americans and people of color have been dealing with,” said Onuoha.
Lamar asked several community questions about vaccine rumors and misconceptions.
Black communities in the U.S. have historically had more mistrust in medical professionals due to previous medical experiments.
“We haven’t seen any long-term effects of the vaccine,” said Onuoha. “The medical community, this is a perfect time for us to show that we can be trustworthy and we can give the community what they need.”
Lamar told us it was critical that the first topic of her speaker series for Black History Month focused on COVID-19.
“The Black community is disproportionately affected by this virus, I think that needs to be the top of our list of priorities to talk about in Black History Month since we’re focusing on the Black community,” said Lamar.
Onuoha said he believes there needs to be a robust and targeted information campaign in Black communities to rebuild trust and allow Black people to make an informed decision about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
He also believes there needs to be more vaccine centers nationwide in predominantly Black neighborhoods.