Vaccine hesitancy among African Americans is a growing cause for concern for the Biden Administration. With the Delta variant on the rise throughout the country and the culprit of climbing child hospitalizations, the White House seeks to quell fears and encourage immunization among a demographic that has historically grappled with low vaccination rates.
Several factors have contributed to the inoculation lag among Black and Brown communities. But at a press conference last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told members of the press that addressing each one of those barriers head-on is a priority for the members of the COVID-19 task force and the administration.
“For the safety of our children, we have to talk about the great challenge we have with misinformation in communities of color. With the rampant myths that are circulating online, and other forums that are leading people to lean away from vaccines,” Murthy said. Even though medical professionals have often reiterated that the science has proven the vaccines to be both safe and effective, the words of officials have done little to convince those with doubts to get jabbed in order to save themselves, their families, and their communities.
As part of the administration’s plan of action, Murthy shared that the taskforce has taken a number of steps to deepen its work with community and faith based organizations. Supporting neighborhood cornerstones like barber shops, rotary organizations and other types of community organizations such as the YMCA is also an approach explored by the group. The White House hopes that by targeting groups that have built trust within the community, they can receive necessary help with designing innovative strategies for outreach.
“We are united in wanting to address this COVID crisis with one voice informed by science, guided by the basic principle that everyone deserves protection from this virus and that the community is going to be stronger when we act together to support one another, and getting vaccinated is really the key to doing that,” said Murthy.
In order to be successful, the administration must first establish trust. Though medical professionals have recognized African American’s historical experiences with the healthcare system, as well as present day experiences that have sown mistrust, the White House acknowledges that a greater push must be made to amplify trustworthy voices among the community. They’ve mobilized a wide diversity of clinicians from across the country, including Black physicians, Latino physicians, nurses and physician assistants and pharmacists to speak directly to their communities and help people understand the facts about COVID-19.
“Some people still remember the difficult experiences of the Tuskegee years and the mistrust that goes along with that,” Murthy acknowledged. “But we've got to remind people that we are committed to an equitable path forward.”