As state and national authorities plan to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine distribution over the next several weeks, it is incumbent on local officials to do what they can to dispel falsehoods and assuage concerns, particularly among minority populations.
This is according to Cone Health’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Chuck Wallington, who took a moment out of his schedule to talk about Cone Health’s town hall outreach program.
“We have looked at how to get feedback from everyone that we care for,” Wallington said. “We noticed that there was a gap. We noticed our minority communities are not getting as vaccinated as quickly or at the same rate as our non-minority community members. We began asking why is that.”
Wallington said he and other researchers determined the racial gap has to do with a lack of information and online access.
To address this gap, Wallington and a handful of others decided to do online seminars with the hopes of dispelling some of the major misconceptions people still have about the vaccine.
“One of them is that the vaccine isn’t safe,” Wallington said about the various misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine. “Another misconception is the time it took to create (and) there were no African Americans in the vaccine trials. Another is if they already had COVID-19, they don’t need the vaccine.
“What we do at the town halls is we acknowledge the myth and tell them what the real answer is.”
Unlike other initiatives to spread awareness, which attempt to speak directly to minority groups. Wallington said this program is for those who might not harbor misgivings about the vaccine, but have family members that do. Wallington said the program teaches best practices about convincing others the vaccine is safe to use.
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The town hall allows us to bring together various community leaders and influencers in the African American, Latinx and Asian American communities,” Wallington said. “The people that we are inviting to the town halls are savvy. They have access to social media and things like that. They are able to access the technology that we need to do a digital town hall. We are giving them the tools that they need to get people signed up for the vaccine.”
Wallington said doing so is easier said than done. He, like others trying to convince minority communities to get vaccinated, acknowledge a history of mistrust, largely fostered by the medical communities’ historic treatment of black patients.
“When you think of the history of African Americans, there is the infamous Tuskeegee experiment that happened some years ago,” he said. “There are a lot of folks who either lived through that or have family and friends that did. That history is very real and very prevalent for people.”
Wallington said it’s important to take this into account when trying to make people aware of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“When they make a decision we want to make sure that it’s an informed decision about if they want to take the vaccine or not,” Wallington said.
The next webinar is scheduled for April 8. Those interested can register at protect-us.mimecast.com/s/A_jXC31rZ2hX289QACqdWy6?domain=conehealth.com.
Dean-Paul Stephens is a lifelong North Carolina resident who has covered communities throughout the state. He currently covers racial justice in the region. If you have racial justice-related tips send an email to email@example.com
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