COVID-19 Vaccine & the African American Community: An Honest Conversation about History & Health

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In recognition of Black History Month, Major, Lindsey & Africa and Allegis Partners’ African-American Recruiters ERG hosted an internal discussion about the historical reasons for African Americans’ mistrust of medicine and the COVID vaccine.  While both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that their clinical trials are seeing success, there are still a great many questions in the African-American community about how sound the science is and whether the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness has been measured against underlying health conditions that disproportionately impact African Americans.

During the discussion, four African-American doctors explored the vaccination truths, addressed concerns, and focused on how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color and how health and economic disparities have contributed to the issue. The panelists cited systemic racism for vaccine hesitancy, noting the infamous, government-backed Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The physicians also noted that COVID-19 is not the first time vaccine mistrust has surfaced and, in fact, many African Americans are skeptical of the flu vaccine.  “Successful vaccination comes down to one thing: trust. Not just for the vaccine, but for the healthcare system as a whole.  To build trust, we need trusted messengers in the community,” says Dr. Bunmi Agboola. Dr. Garth Walker concurred that “the one factor that is just as critical as getting the vaccine out is establishing trust with communities of color, particularly for a healthcare system with established instances and current challenges with structural racism and achieving equity. It will require intention, action and empathy.”  Dr. Michael J.L. Smith emphasized that “If we do not establish trust in a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disproportionately impact people of color and reinforce the systemic racism that has long produced health inequity in our nation.”

Panelists:

Dr. Bunmi Agboola, Founder of The Physician Collective

Dr. Brian E. Coleman, Associate Professor at Florida Atlanta University’s College of Medicine, Chief of Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgery of Larkin Osteopathic Medical School and Chief Medical Officer of JFI Medical, LLC*

Dr. Michael J.L. Smith, Director and Assistant Professor of Integrated Medical Science at Florida Atlanta University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine

Dr. Garth Walker, Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health

*JFI Medical LLC. is the only minority-owned company supplying COVID-19 diagnostic tests in the U.S. They are comprised of renowned physicians, entrepreneurs and business leaders who have created a unique ecosystem that allows a comprehensive execution of scalable, customized, testing solution strategies for federal government agencies, education systems, retail business, etc. Fueled by their mission statement of creating equitable access to premium-level products to underserved minority communities, a percentage of all proceeds are used for executing testing for those in need.  JFI Medical has recently partnered with the Indianapolis Airport Authority in becoming the exclusive supplier of coronavirus tests in a major airport setting, a historic relationship. Email them at info@jfimedical.com for further questions.

Hosted by:

Dustin Laws

Managing Director at Major, Lindsey & Africa

Merle Vaughn

Managing Director & National Law Firm Diversity Practice Leader at Major, Lindsey & Africa

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