As with many things these days, there is a lot of misinformation, skepticism, and conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. However, inside the Black community, concerns about receiving the vaccine are based on actual events from the past. There’s the Tuskegee Syphilis study where hundreds of African American men from Alabama were forced to suffer from untreated syphilis as the government withheld treatment to see the outcome. Then there’s the story of Henrietta Lacks whose cells were stolen and used for medical research and the testing of AIDS drugs on Black foster children in the 1980s, all still fresh in many minds.
The alarming rates of COVID-19 infections within communities of color and a disproportionate percentage of deaths among Black Americans was enough to make Tyler Perry want to do more.
In “COVID-19 Vaccine and the Black Community A Tyler Perry Special,” premiering Thursday, January 28, at 9 PM ET/PT on BET and BET Her, the media mogul helps decipher the facts about the COVID-19 vaccination so that you can make an educated decision about what is right for you and your family.
Along with Carlos del Rio, MD, executive associate dean, Emory School of Medicine of Grady Health System, and Kimberly Manning, MD Emory Hospitalist at Grady Health System, Perry asks the hard questions to help the community gain insight into the benefits of taking the new vaccine, which is being touted as a game changer in protecting lives.
Here are five fast facts you’ll learn from the 30-minute special that will help you decide how to move forward with the COVID-19 vaccine.
While you may not be familiar with the name Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, she was the key scientist at the forefront of helping to develop the Moderna vaccine, which has been shown to be over 90 percent effective. The research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institute of Health (NIH) was critical in developing the MRNA technology for the vaccine. Her work with pathogens began in 2014 when she joined the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center.
When researchers studied COVID-19, they found a spike protein that gets into your cells and makes you sick. They designed a vaccine that was mRNA coding for that protein. Once it is introduced into your body, it triggers an immune response that remembers and will recognize the virus if you get it. If you come in contact with the virus, your T-cells remember, and antibodies rush to attack the virus. So, you are not getting the virus itself but coding that tells your body to make spike proteins to develop an immune response.
While it is natural to be concerned about the vaccine's safety, the Pfizer trial had about 30,000 participants, and the Moderna trial had around 40,000, including Dr. Manning. She was one of the first individuals to receive a shot in September 2020 and another in October. Furthermore, while the population size of studies varies, those numbers are large compared to a recent worldwide HIV trial conducted by Dr. del Rio which included 5,000 subjects. Plus, the virus is similar to the SARS virus, which scientists have spent years researching a vaccine to fight.
Some people taking the vaccine will experience side effects such as pain at the vaccination site, headache, low-grade fever for about a day or two. Allergic reactions, however, have been rare during the trials, and individuals who tend to have them react to components in the vaccine. In other words, if you typically have a reaction to the flu vaccine, you could react in the same way to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is why you are monitored for 15 to 20 minutes after receiving the shot, as allergic reactions usually occur right away.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is too new to surmise its effects in the future, the mRNA technology that it was created with has been used for the last two years in Africa to fight the Ebola virus. Plus, so far, most of the side effects occurred within the first two months of receiving the vaccine. If there is a problem, you are going to see it very early on.
For more information watch “COVID-19 Vaccine and the Black Community A Tyler Perry Special" airing on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 9 PM ET/PT only on BET and BET Her. For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
TYLER PERRY STUDIOS/BET