TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A new PSA is going out in our area urging minorities to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
While the data on vaccination rates isn’t always complete, there is one alarming fact about vaccinations for the Black community. While the pandemic has hit them particularly hard, they’re being vaccinated at a much slower rate than white people. There is a myriad of reasons for this.
Alonzo Harrison is a Topeka business owner. His family moved to Topeka in 1952, before he was born.
“When it was time for me to be born, my mom told her sister ‘I want to be around someone I’m comfortable with,’” Harrison said.
Even though his parents lived just blocks from the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital, his parents drove to Hughes, Arkansas out in the country and his aunt acted as the midwife. Back then, Black Americans felt they were guinea pigs of new medicines. Some people point to the Tuskegee experiment as the main reason, a fear that’s been carried through generations.
Harrison and Pamela Johnson-Betts are now trying to educate Black people on why and how they can get their COVID-19 shot.
“One of the many things that covid has done, is illuminate that many African Americans have trust issues with our health system,” Johnson-Betts said.
It also highlights the need for more Black health care workers and physicians. She has spoken to many elderly people through her efforts, some of whom have even come down with COVID-19.
“They believe that home remedies make a difference. They might put Vicks in a vaporizer,” Johnson-Betts said. “And because some of them have healed on their own, those people may believe the vaccine is unnecessary or that COVID-19 is a hoax.”
There are a few places this group of leaders will focus on to get the word out, the first of which is sports teams. Harrison hopes to have coaches approach their players about the vaccine. In fact, he was a young Black athlete himself at Washburn University.
“Getting the information about covid to the young athletes quite simply because that’s where they are. Where the young Blacks are is generally in athletics,” Harrison said.
The group also wants to focus on staple places like churches and barbershops. After all, many people are part of churches and everyone gets their hair cut.
This group will lead by example and get their shots. But they say they will respect the decision of other black Americans if they choose not to.
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