Some local African-American leaders are encouraging others in the community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when they have an opportunity to get it.
Hezekiah Brown, who is active with 100 Black Men of Northeastern North Carolina Inc., said skepticism about the vaccine may be widespread among African Americans but certainly is not limited to them.
“It’s not just Black people, but there is a great deal of trepidation about the vaccine,” Brown said. “Some people say they want to wait and see what happens when other people take the vaccine and whether there are any negative effects.”
But Brown said he has none of that trepidation himself.
“I feel absolutely confident about it,” he said. “This is no longer just what the politicians are talking about but this is what the scientists say.”
Brown said he and his wife both received the vaccine Thursday at College of The Albemarle.
“We’re very happy about that,” he said of the opportunity to get their first dose of the vaccine.
“I would encourage the rest of the African-American community to get the vaccine,” Brown said.
A Pew Research Center study published last month showed Blacks “less inclined” to take the vaccine than any other racial group. According to NPR, who reported on the study, of the 12,648 adults surveyed, only 42% of Black Americans said they would consider taking the vaccine. That’s compared to 63% of Hispanics, 61% of white adults, and 83% of English-speaking Asian Americans who said they would take the vaccine.
The need for Blacks to get vaccinated is critical, health officials say. As of last month, data showed 48,000 Black Americans had died from the virus since the pandemic began. That same data also showed Black Americans are three times more likely to die from the virus than white Americans.
Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he has noticed “mixed emotions” among Black people about getting the COVID vaccine.
He said some of the skepticism toward the vaccine is rooted in African Americans’ particular history when it comes to treatment by the U.S. health system. Black men were once infected with syphilis without their consent or knowledge, and black women were, for decades, subjected to forced sterilization.
Both things happened not that long ago, Rivers noted.
Another challenge to getting people vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine is the difficulty of disseminating accurate health information in rural areas, he said.
“So a lot of it gets left to word of mouth,” Rivers said.
Rivers said he will be on a call this week with other NAACP leaders from eastern North Carolina about how to effectively put together a series of “safety nets” for residents. Those “safety nets” include not just the COVID vaccine but also support for Medicaid expansion, safe housing and mental health services.
“One of the hard things to do in northeastern North Carolina is going to be, how do we get that message out to a large audience?” Rivers asked.
Churches have traditionally been a good meeting place but with many churches now having to meet online because of COVID that’s not a possibility, he said.
Rivers said Elizabeth City State University is helping to disseminate accurate health information in the region and will be an important partner in the effort to help people get vaccinated.
Rivers said he and his wife plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and hopes others will follow suit.
“I would tell people that there are more reasons to get the vaccine than there are reasons why you should not get a vaccine,” he said.
He said he hopes the vaccine will reduce the severity of COVID-19 and prevent deaths from the respiratory disease.