Nation’s top doctor addresses concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine; disparities in Carolinas

Mistrust over COVID-19 vaccine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - With the ongoing pandemic, there is a continued push to address issues related to why Americans feel hesitant in taking a coronavirus vaccine.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told WBTV that earning trust, especially in the Black community is key.

“Unfortunately, the Black community, the brown communities across this country have seen in stark detail the havoc COVID can wreck on their communities and loved ones. I hope people understand that the way we end this pandemic is ultimately through a vaccine,” Adams said.

He also says he understands why there is hesitancy: historical events such as the Tuskegee Experiment and Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who unknowingly donated her cells.

“We have to address those concerns and show this is what we did to protect you and protect everyone who participates in studies and uses medications,” Adams said.

Both vaccines -- Moderna and Pfizer -- have shown to be 95 percent effectiveness. Adams also cited minorities participating in those trials and a Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, for her role in the development of a vaccine as examples of trusting the process.

“I have family in North Carolina and South Carolina. I know medical disparities abound particularly in the South. I know the distrust of the medical system is strong. But we don’t want that distrust to lead you into an unhealthy decision,” he said.

Across North Carolina, more than 63,000 health care workers and long-term care staff and residents have been vaccinated with a first dose, according to the state’s online dashboard. Out of those numbers, 80 percent have been white, and only eight percent vaccinated have been Black.

In Mecklenburg County, specific numbers are not currently available but Public Health Director Gibbie Harris says anecdotally a “higher percentage are white.”

“We just have a lot of work to make our minority communities comfortable with this vaccine and that trust has been a challenge for years,” Harris said.

While both acknowledge work must be done, Adams says he’s reached out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Black fraternities and sororities, and celebrities in hope of getting the facts out about the vaccines.

“We need to work with these community gatekeepers with the understanding that some people are never going to trust the government but they will trust their pastor, their rabbi, Steve Harvey --who’ve I’ve been working with -- and many other people,” Adams added.

He also says it is okay for people to ask questions about the vaccines and the vaccination process.

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