What state & local leaders are doing to address vaccine hesitancy in communities of color

Posted at 6:58 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 06:58:54-05

DETROIT — Multiple studies have found there is substantial hesitance and apprehension within the Black community when it comes to getting the vaccine.

That's even though the CDC reports Black Americans are 2-3 times more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.

Related: State: Black people only account for 3.7% of those vaccinated for COVID-19 so far

In Michigan, new race data found that only 3.7% of those who were vaccinated are Black people, compared to nearly 42% who are white.

Rev. Charlies Williams II of Detroit's historic King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church said he got the vaccine so he can get back to visiting the sick and the homebound.

"There's no pain worse than not being able to see your members," Williams said.

Williams acknowledges his willingness to get vaccinated puts him in the minority within the Black community.

Related: AP Analysis: Racial disparity seen in US vaccination drive

A study from the University of Michigan found 67% of Black residents surveyed in Detroit opposed getting the vaccine, compared to 31% of white residents in opposition.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist speaks on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among communities of color

For Blacks, the distrust is believed to be rooted, in part, due to a painful past.

"There's the Tuskegee experiment, but then there are the personal experiences of everyday individuals," Williams said.

Related: Data shows white people getting vaccinated at higher rates than Blacks and Hispanics in U.S.

"There have been studies that have been done intentionally to withhold treatment from Black and Brown people and still, to this day, there exists bias in the healthcare system," MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun added. "So there's a reason why many people in Black and Brown communities may be hesitant about the vaccine, but I do think that we are making progress and that there are things we can do about that."

Khaldun said there are town hall meetings and forums taking place and that it's important not to shame people. Instead, you should try and answer their questions about healthcare and the vaccine.

Dr. Sam Mossallam, who spearheads outreach initiatives for Henry Ford Health System, said that even some of their staff is skeptical. "Especially employees of color. We are seeing it in our communities," he said.

So, the Ford Health System has had more than 120 webinars and education activities to try and dispel theories and myths.

King Solomon Church is a step ahead, serving as a COVID-19 testing site. Williams also talks about Dr. Kizzmedia Corbett, a viral immunologist, who helped design the Moderna vaccine.

"For me, that was kind of comforting to know that a Black woman had a hand in putting together the vaccine," he said. "So, the last reason I took it is because I can't ask anybody to do what I'm not willing to do myself."