Forum seeks to eliminate hesitancy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine in communities of color

SPOKANE, Wash. — People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and are also getting left behind in the nation’s vaccine rollout.

Washington promised to make vaccine equity a priority, getting doses to under represented communities. That hasn’t happened, and a long history of vaccine hesitancy is also a factor.

Trust in public health is a big issue for many people, but specifically for people of color. That’s why the NAACP and other Black leaders in Spokane came together on Saturday to answer any questions people may have about the vaccine, in hopes to make them feel a little more comfortable about it.

“I feel like when they want Black people to accept something from the government, the first thing they do is wheel out one of us,” said Daphne Davis.

Davis, like many others, is hesitant about the vaccine.

“I’m one of the people who said no, I’m not going to take the shot,” said Davis.

It’s a hesitancy that’s understandable, especially in the Black community.

“When we go to the doctor, we’re going to someone who doesn’t look like us, and that’s where the fear comes from,” said Pastor Walter Kendricks.

RELATED: White people receiving most of Washington’s vaccine doses, Hispanics disproportionately left behind

That fear is preventing people in the Black community from getting the shot. The history that’s there, the trauma they’ve faced, they don’t want to do it again.

In the forum, many people referred to the Tuskegee study that was done on Black men. In 1932, Black men were recruited in the study, in exchange for free health care. In that study, men died along with others went through severe health issues. Experts say those conducting the study did not tell these men what they were part of a study and that they were misled.

“Unfortunately, Black communities all over the United States have a very contentious relationship with the medical field,” said Kiantha Duncan, president of Spokane’s NAACP. “This has the potential to be devastating the Black community. Devastating,” she added, talking about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Duncan and medical professionals say it’s okay to feel reluctant about the shot.

“I want the community to know that there are experts that are within our own community have also reviewed and that they agreed the vaccine is safe and effective,” said Dr. Okechukwu Ojogho, a transplant physician at Providence Sacred Heart.

Roughly 90 people attended the discussion, wanting to learn more.

“It’s so imperative that we communicate the right information and we encourage people to check our sources. Young people all over Spokane are doing that, especially young Black people, because we know the history that our parents and grandparents have had with our health care,” said Jada, a student at Innovation High School.

Conversations like these about their own history, the vaccine’s history, and what the future for everyone could look like, all play a part in hopefully avoiding a much bleaker outcome.

“In the Black community, I think it’s very important for us to agree to do something about preventing the unnecessary deaths,” said Dr. Geoffrey Mwangi with The Native Project.

The group held two surveys; one at the beginning of the two-hour forum, and one again at the end. Results showed 76% of people on the call were more likely to get the vaccine after receiving the information, which is two percent higher than the first survey.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Black community members to host discussion on racial inequity and the vaccine 

READ: ‘We’re trying to bridge a gap’: Community organizations help vaccinate minority groups