Black Prisma Health physician addresses vaccine skepticism among minorities

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 6:54 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - There is nationwide concern that many minorities won’t seek out the coronavirus vaccine because of a lack of trust in the health care system.

Prisma Health family medicine physician Dr. Jaqui Jones says she’s often faced with questions like, “Can we trust it? Why is it happening so quickly? Who should get it first? Are you going to get it? What’s in it?”

Some of the skepticism surrounding the coronavirus vaccine is because of how quickly it became available, but Dr. Jones said, “This is not new technology. This is good technology, but it’s not new technology. It’s technology that scientists have been using for a long time to develop vaccines against viruses such as these.”

Other concerns are disproportionately reflected among minority communities and stem from a deep-rooted distrust in the American health care system.

“Particularly among the African-American community, there is hesitancy around the vaccine at a higher rate than in other populations,” said Maya Pack, the executive director of the South Carolina Institute of Medicine & Public Health.

Many point to the Tuskegee Experiment, which started in 1932 and continued until the early 1970s. Hundreds of Black men in Macon County, Alabama, were enrolled to help study the full progression of syphilis, a contagious venereal disease with no treatment at the time the study began. Even once a treatment was discovered some 15 years into the study, the participants were never treated.

“From those tragedies came review committees and boards that now are responsible for the safety and making sure that guidelines are in place and making sure that how we inform people of what studies that they are participating in and what the guidelines are – came to be because of these things that happened,” said Dr. Jones.

At the time that she interviewed with WIS, Dr. Jones had already received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I had arm pain for two days and that was about it,” she complained.

Vince Ford, Prisma’s senior vice president for community health, was interviewed just hours after he was given his first dose.

“I feel good, actually,” he said. “I had no arm sight pain, no discomfort whatsoever.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) checks in with them daily, keeping track of any bad reactions.

Ford is now leading new listening sessions, connecting Prisma Health with church and community leaders, as well as lawmakers to help reach more minorities on the importance of being vaccinated.

A December Pew Research study found that 71% of Black respondents knew someone who had been hospitalized, or had even died from COVID-19. Still, less than half of the Black Americans polled said they were planning to be vaccinated. Pack said these disparities are issues that should concern everyone, no matter your race.

“Racism is a public health crisis and racism is at the root of many of these social determinants that are causing disparate health outcomes, but as our minority populations are affected, so is the whole state because our economy is only as strong as our workforce and our workforce is only as strong as the health of our community,” said Pack.

The SC Institute of Medicine and Public Health recently conducted a study to examine the disproportionate effects of coronavirus in minority communities in South Carolina.

That study shows that while Black Americans make up about 27% of the state’s population, they make up 31% of South Carolina’s coronavirus cases and 38% of the state’s death toll related to the virus.

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