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Columbia NAACP and Dr. Linda Bell tackle vaccine skepticism with Q&A

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 11:55 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With the COVID-19 vaccine continuing to roll out across the state, the Columbia Branch of the NAACP wanted to address skepticism and concerns regarding the vaccine.

On Tuesday evening, the group held a Zoom forum with Dr. Linda Bell and other community leaders to answer questions.

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“I never dreamed that we would be at the point where we are now,” Dr. Bell said.

COVID-19 has been swift and unrelenting as it continues to rip through the United States, and here in South Carolina, things are no different.

“5,860 souls have been lost to COVID,” Dr. Bell said. “COVID is the leading cause of death in South Carolina right now.”

Now a vaccine is here. But many are skeptical, especially in the African American community, where there’s a wider distrust of the healthcare establishment that stems from historical wrongdoing.

Community leaders are trying to address that concern, along with finding solutions to other COVID-19 related issues.

“The vaccine has two problems, primarily, in the black community,” said Representative Wendy Brawley. “There’s a trust issue that harbors back historically from the Tuskegee incident, and then there’s the access issue to make certain that the vaccine becomes accessible to people who are in the areas that are hard to get to.”

This team and other leaders are working with churches across the state to try and create distribution sites in rural communities as the vaccine becomes more widely available. Until then, they’re urging people to stay cautious.

“African-Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID,” Dr. Bells said. “We have cases that were not hospitalized, but there are people who didn’t require hospitalization who have prolonged recovery periods. They don’t get back to their baseline. There are many people who experience mild to moderate symptoms for weeks, to months on end. Shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty sleeping.”

Bell fielded questions about the vaccine, including how it was created so quickly. She says the blueprint for this vaccine came from one scientist who had already developed nearly two decades ago that has a similar makeup to COVID-19.

“The initial development of that vaccine 18 years ago has benefitted us greatly now because it was developed for a coronavirus that is very closely related to the virus that is causing COVID 19,” Dr. Bell said. “So it is a myth that all of that work that was done on this vaccine was in the last few months.”

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As the vaccine rollout chugs along, Dr. Bell says she hopes meetings like these help shutdown the myth and misinformation.

“People have to make choices,” she said. “I want them to make informed choices.”

Dr. Bell also mentioned that we should all continue to social distance and wear our masks.

She made sure to re-iterate that you have to be careful, even in small gatherings. Bell said, “you can invite someone into your home that you know or love, but they can be infected with the virus, even without symptoms.”

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