As Hamilton County moves to vaccinate against COVID-19, there are major disparities and distrust that stand in the way of herd immunity. One of the groups least likely to get the shot: African Americans.
The Ohio Department of Health held a virtual town hall via Facebook Live Monday night with black doctors, clergy members and activists – all in the hopes to get communities of color on board with being vaccinated.
“As people of color, we are more likely to get COVID-19, more likely to be hospitalized and most likely to die,” said a compilation from the Black Physicians Network.
According to state data, more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given out, but only 77,000 of those doses have been given to African Americans.
Among the many questions asked by patients since the rollout began: “How did this vaccine get developed so quickly? It is safe? Should I take the vaccine?”
As more and more people get the shot, the narrative has shifted.
“Now, we know people who have gotten the vaccine, right? Ask them,” said Eddie Koen, president and CEO of the Urban League of Southwest Ohio. “It’s hard to share something that is misleading when you know someone who is living and is breathing and is well.”
Clergy members said they are helping to spread the message.
"The church has been hit very hard – my denomination in particular, we’ve lost so many bishops, mothers in the church and pastors,” Pastor Jerry Revish said. "I think we're now sort of turning the corner. In some ways, I'm seeing some vaccine envy among our members."
Much of the focus has been on access to the vaccine.
“The question isn’t whether or not the government is worthy of trust,” Koen said. “The more appropriate question to me is: do Black people deserve equitable access to the vaccine and the right to live?”
Another major roadblock has been the lack of education about who qualifies and what hurdles exist once shots become widely available.
“You don’t have insurance? Come, get the vaccine,” Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore said. “You will not leave there without it.”
The Ohio Department of Health will stream another live event Tuesday for Hispanic and Latino Ohioans.