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Ohio health officials, Urban League combat mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines

Public support trends up for vaccines, but some remain skeptical
Vaccine trial
Posted at 10:14 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 23:45:09-05

CINCINNATI — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced COVID-19 vaccines could be available to thousands of frontline workers in the coming weeks. Once it is widely accessible, health officials and local groups said getting everyone to take the shot could be an uphill battle.

Pfizer and Moderna, which have produced trial vaccines that have shown roughly 95% effectiveness, are still pending federal approval. After they’re approved, they will ship to Ohio later in December. Those working in medicine directly treating COVID-19 patients will be the first to get those doses, followed by a second booster dose.

When it becomes an option for the general public, not everyone is eager to be first in line.

Cinnamon Pelly, the COO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, said a little transparency would go a long way. African American communities have been hit hard by COVID-19. Still, as a new Pew Research survey shows confidence is growing nationwide, some say they may not get a shot for months after they're accessible, if at all.

"There is very real historical mistrust of the medical process and experiments,” Pelly said.

The Urban League has helped businesses and individuals secure personal protective equipment since the start of the pandemic and hosts free COVID testing. Pelly said the agency is prepared to help the Black community navigate this next phase of the fight against the virus while acknowledging the skepticism.

"Some folks will be ready to take it as soon as it's available, and the Urban League wants to play a role in making sure that all folks have access, but for some folks it may take a little while longer,” she said.

DeWine and state health leaders addressed the distrust some have surrounding the speed at which the vaccines were developed. DeWine, along with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, has said he is willing to get a coronavirus vaccine on camera to boost public confidence.

"We're doing it in a more efficient way that does not compromise any of the safety,” said Joseph Gastaldo, Ohio Health's Medical Director for Infectious Disease.

Local and national experts agree the vaccines are safe, highly effective and the best shot at some semblance of normal.

"Having a vaccine be accepted is the first big step we have to get us to herd immunity and a pre-COVID way of life,” said Gastaldo.

And Pelly said others will come through on their own schedule.

"Some of it is just with any sort of relationship or trust building, it's just going to take time,” she said.