VOICES: Knowledge wins, not vaccine hesitancy

As we continue to face the realities of the detrimental impact and effects of COVID-19 on the African-American, Latino and Native American citizens of this great nation, we have to be reminded that our struggle is real. The struggles and challenges are real and documented by the deaths of more than 640,000 of our fellow Americans. What we know is that the numbers of those who would be infected with this deadly virus, and those who might ultimately perish because of it, are disproportionately skewed in a higher percentage to people of color.

In light of that reality, there is still a great deal of hesitancy on behalf of certain demographics to take the various vaccines that have been introduced into the marketplace to combat this insidious virus. I understand the hesitancy, as there is a generational distrust and mistrust of healthcare systems and the care that is provided to certain ethnic groups. Unfortunately, we know that people of color continue to experience inferior access to equal and equitable quality health services that result in both detrimental and disparate impact.

I’m not just talking about what happened with the Tuskegee experiments, but what people of color continue to experience in every aspect of our daily existence. We continue to be marginalized, deceived and allowed to die in exorbitant numbers in relation to our white counterparts. Whether it’s the ills of systemic racism in healthcare, food, education, housing, jobs, criminal and social justice, we have had to learn to live with the realities of two different Americas: One white and one African-American.

Having said that, it is incumbent upon us now to increase the awareness of the benefits of taking the vaccine. First and foremost, we have to follow the science. The scientific and healthcare communities have determined that African Americans are more likely to die of COVID-19 than any other ethnic group in the nation.

The data also suggests that those who have been vaccinated have a higher likelihood of not only not contracting the virus, but more importantly, not dying from it. Second, we must commit to increasing access to equal and equitable healthcare services across both geographical and jurisdictional lines. Access to quality healthcare services should not be limited to white, suburban communities, but increased to include those in the urban, if not inner-city, communities who are the hardest hit.

There has to be a commitment from the highest levels of government to address the racial disparities that exist in healthcare access. We do that by increasing programs geared to diversity and inclusion as we combat this healthcare crisis in America. We need more quality information to help dispel the myths of century-old practices that people of color don’t matter enough to be informed. How can we make better life-saving decisions without the corresponding information?

African Americans know the long history of being disrespected, mistreated and violated by the government and healthcare professionals. We have to become better informed. Finally, there has to be a focus on promoting and regaining the trust in life-saving medical innovations and treatments. We must figure out a way to reduce the skepticism about anything the government pushes toward the African-American community.

As a leader in the African American community in which I live and serve, I am committed to helping lead the way to life for our constituents. I led by example and received my shots and encouraged my church members to do the same. Take the shot.

The Rev. Rockney Carter, Ph.D., is senior pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Dayton.

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