MICHIGAN — There’s a skepticism of vaccines rooted in history for the black community. After years of being subjected to controversial and often times inhumane medical trials, now, the medical community is combatting a mistrust in vaccines they themselves helped create.
“It took a long time - and with reason - that people come to these conclusions,” said Dr. Walter Brame, a community advocate and former president of the local Urban League chapter. “We hope that the medical community takes a look at itself and understand that it has contributed to this situation.”
Friday, Spectrum Health gathered local leaders on a Zoom call to do just that: address the issue of vaccine mistrust in minority communities and the barriers those communities face trying to get a shot.
City commissioners, mental health doctors, advocates and school board members all participated.
“Trust is not something that comes easily. It’s something that quite often is learned. It requires time it requires commitment,” said Grand Rapids City Commissioner Joe Jones from the 2nd ward. “A lot of the systems and structures that are in play right now, in many ways, are not performing at a level that is conducive or is of the greatest benefit for historically marginalized populations.”
“Some of this messaging feels very abrupt,” said Traci Burton, an education advocate in the Benton Harbor area. “I think some of the language out there - you know ‘these are hard to reach people.’ Well I thought about that, and I think we should flip that on its head. I think it’s a hard to trust system.”
As for solutions, Spectrum is looking to community partners – old and new – to help them carry the message of trust and safety.
“I think that churches and civic organizations, sororities, masonic groups, will encourage people to get the vaccine,” said Brame.
And Brame adds, this isn’t an issue that affects only minorities.
“Truly, as [Martin Luther] King said, that our destinies are intertwined,” said Brame. “The white community cannot be safe if the black community is not protected. So we want to fix it for our mutual survival.”
Spectrum Health has vaccine resources for minority communities here, along with stories about how the vaccine is positively impacting the lives of people of color.
SEE MORE: CORONAVIRUS IN WEST MICHIGAN