As the fight against coronavirus pandemic continues, BET.com provides updated information about the vaccine, testing, and the progress made by health officials and the U.S. federal government and efforts across the Black Diaspora.
Check back daily for updates on what is being done to help the Black community survive and plans to end the pandemic. For more information, read last year’s BET.com Coronavirus Blog.
Black Doctors Seeking To Address Coronavirus Vaccine Hesitancy With Real Communication
Jan. 26, 2021
Doctors with the National Medical Association, an organization of Black physicians, say they want to take a lead role in addressing the concerns of the African American community about coronavirus vaccines.
Having formed a task force in the last months of the Trump administration, the doctors gave their endorsements of the emergency authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna drugs, which are currently being administered to front line healthcare workers and the elderly.
But now they are working to create trust with the community in hopes of getting more people to be willing to take the vaccine.
“We realize that Black people are at the highest risk for coronavirus but the least likely to want to take the vaccine, so we’re trying to reverse that,” said Rodney Hood, an NMA doctor who is on the task force told STAT, a medical news website.
RELATED: Black Doctors Are Endorsing ‘Safe And Effective’ COVID-19 Vaccine
Doctors also understand the hesitancy of Black people to take the vaccine given the history of racism in medicine. Gabrielle Perry, a New Orleans clinical epidemiologist, who isn’t with the NMA explained the conflict between that and convincing a reluctant community.
“Medical professionals have to understand that the fear of Covid-19, which is this invisible, looming foe, that fear does not always outweigh the very clear and well-documented danger of going to a health care system that has proven itself to be as deadly as disease,” Perry told STAT. “You can’t look at that hesitancy at face value. Centuries of inhumanity — that’s not easily forgotten.”
So NMA officials say they have heard a flurry of concerns about what the vaccines are, what impact they can have and what worries people.
“I’ve been on a town hall just about every day,” said NMA president Leon McDougle, NMA president and chief diversity officer at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
He told STAT the multiple meetings with community organizations, churches and other groups turn into more questions that his group asks. “These convenings are also informing discussions with the pharmaceutical company scientists that are producing the vaccines, so that when we meet with them, these are questions we can ask.”
For example, there was a concern that the vaccine might cause infertility, but even though that did not seem plausible, they did put the question to pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccine.
“There was some concern that the vaccine was going to be geared to Blacks and that it would cause infertility. That was more of a myth, but we felt it was responsible to ask them about that,” said Hood, who is an internal medicine doctor at San Ysidro Health in Southern California. “They said there was no data showing that.”
The task force has also taken on questions about how other ailments like sickle cell disease or HIV would impact vaccine safety or efficacy. After meeting with two of the major pharmaceutical companies producing the drugs, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, it turns out vaccine trials that had people with those diseases showed no adverse effect, but officials will continue to follow them, said McDougle.
So there is hope that communication about the vaccines that Black people can trust will circulate. But the method is something the doctors say they will be attentive to.
“When we look at all these online strategies — campaigns on social media, a chatbot — we don’t really know yet what is really effective,” Ève Dubé senior researcher at the Québec National Institute of Public Health and anthropologist at Laval University in Canada told STAT. “When it’s someone you know, your doctor, your nurse, your neighbor, your priest, we know that that’s what’s the most effective.”
Amazon Offers Help In Getting Americans Vaccinated Against COVID-19
The Biden administration was reportedly given a coronavirus vaccine plan that was “complete incompetence.” But he is now getting assistance in making change.
Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Dave Clark wrote a letter written to Biden on the new president’s first day in office, "Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration.”
Clark continued, “We have an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines on-site at our Amazon facilities. We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available. Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts.”
Clark is also asking for Amazon employees to be vaccinated at “the earliest appropriate time” being that they have “over 800,000 employees in the United States, most of whom are essential workers who cannot work from home.”
Biden has yet to respond to the request.
Africa Hits 3 Million Cases of Coronavirus, With Worries of a Second Wave
Monday, Jan. 11
When the coronavirus made its global impact in February 2020, Africa as a whole seemed to some how manage to avoid massive rates of the spread of the virus. Now, infected residents have surpassed 3 million cases on the continent resulting in 72,000 deaths. Most of those cases are concentrated in South Africa where a mutation of the virus has been detected that is reportedly more contagious and spreads more quickly, according to health experts.
The nation, the continent’s fifth most populous, has 1.2 million reported cases, including 32,824 deaths, according to the Associated Press, citing figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the high number of cases in South Africa is because health officials there run more tests than other African nations.
The nation’s seven-day rolling average of new cases went from 19.86 per 100,000 on Dec. 26 to 30.18 on Jan. 9, Johns Hopkins University reports. 966,000 were counted as recovered.
Still the disease has been responsible for much less death in Africa than it has in Europe or the United States. There was a fear in several nations that weakened health care infrastructures would not be able to handle another disease when they were already dealing with several other diseases so officials in countries like Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria locked down countries swiftly and, with the help of entities like the World Health Organization and the Africa C.D.C., which deployed health care workers.
A fear of a second and even third wave are worrying officials in South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to meet this week with his cabinet to weigh the possibility of further measures to halt the spread of the disease. Strict restrictions are already in place including a ban on liquor sales, gathering in public places and shutting down bars.
Despite the relatively low numbers, some in Africa’s health care networks believe things are worse than they seem. “It is possible and very likely that the rate of exposure is much more than what has been reported,” Dr. John N. Nkengasong, the head of Africa C.D.C. told The New York Times.
Meanwhile, South Africa is expecting its first delivery of 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine later in January, the AP says. The priority will be to vaccinate the nation’s health care workers. More doses are expected to come through the WHO’s COVAX vaccine program in April.
Study Shows Blacks More Aggressively Policed For COVID Related Health Violations
Jan. 8, 2021
Black people are four times as likely to be policed and punished for coronavirus violations than whites, a study reveals.
The research, outlined in “Unmasked: Impacts of Pandemic Policing” a report compiled by the COVID-19 Policing Project, which began last May and published its findings in October, shows that none of the disparities in law enforcement when it comes to people of color diminished since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only did the uneven enforcement of Covid-19 public health orders track predictable patterns of policing, it also strengthened and widened the webs of criminalization which ensnare marginalized communities,” the study’s authors Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie and Tiffany Wang wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian on Jan. 6. “The Covid-19 Policing Project reviewed public information about enforcement over the past six months and found that Black, Indigenous and people of color (Bipoc) were 2.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for violations of Covid-19 orders than white people. Black people specifically were 4.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for coronavirus orders than white people.”
The researchers’ findings showed that Black women, who have a significant presence in healthcare and essential service jobs, have the highest rates of racial disparities in enforcement of public health orders related to coronavirus. That particular group is five times more likely than white women to face punishment. Black men are 3.7 times as likely as white men to face police action for violations.
Black people are already disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to APM Research Lab, Black and Indigenous populations’ COVID-19 death rate is higher than 1 in 750. Aggressively policing those populations, the authors say, is not helping an already dire situation.
The way forward through the raging pandemic and devastating economic crisis doesn’t lie in more surveillance, policing and punishment of marginalized communities – it lies in the demands to stop pouring money and resources into policing and start pouring resources into people and communities,” the essay says.
Los Angeles County Ambulance Crews Reportedly Ordered To Not Send COVID Patients To The Hospital
Tuesday, Jan. 5: The coronavirus is surging all over the country but Los Angeles, California is being hit so hard that hospitals in the area are reportedly at capacity.
According to a news release from Los Angeles health officials, the county has jumped from about 400,000 cases on November 30 to more than 800,000 cases on January 2, which is an increase of 905%. You read that right; 905%. And CNN is reporting that one American dies from Covid-19 every 33 seconds.
Additionally, the three-day average number of people hospitalized with coronavirus complications was 7,623. And yet, infection of the virus is not the only ailment impacting the public. There are other people who require treatment whether it is for care because of an accident or a heart attack. Sadly, it is difficult for these patients to receive medical assistance in the midst of this recent surge.
Hilda Solis, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors told CNN the situation was a "human disaster” and "hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units.”
CNN also reports that a memo issued to ambulance workers last week read, "Effective immediately, due to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals, adult patients (18 years of age or older) in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) shall not be transported [if]return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is not achieved in the field.”
If people can be transported to the hospital, there is a long wait. EMT Jimmy Webb told CNN affiliate KCAL, "We are waiting two to four hours minimum to a hospital and now we are having to drive even further... then wait another three hours.”
A quick rollout of the vaccine was expected to curb infections. The Trump administration promised 20 million people vaccinated by New Year's Day. Only 4.6 million have received the vaccine, according to The New York Times.
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.
Black Texas Lawmaker, Who Is Also A Nurse, Backs Coronavirus Vaccine
Monday, Jan. 4, 2021: As the coronavirus vaccine continues to roll out among health care workers and the elderly, skepticism continues to loom in the Black community. After all, there is a long history of inappropriate tests performed on Black people fueled by past racist practices sanctioned by federal and state funded medical and scientific bodies.
Democratic Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a longtime advocate of sound science and healthcare in the Black community, is stepping out to ease the concerns many African Americans have about the coronavirus vaccine.
"Consult with people who have the credentials to answer the questions — not emotional questions, not political questions, but medical questions,” the Democrat, who represents Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News. “When they get information from people they trust, they will feel confident about it.”
Johnson, became the first registered nurse elected to Congress in 1993, and is also Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. But with experiences steeped in healthcare in the Black community, she says she understands why there is mistrust among so many.
“There’s great skepticism for experimentation,” Johnson told the Morning News. “They have a history of being abused. They have a history of not being included in field testing. I don’t have any doubt that there will be questions.”
Incidents like the infamous Tuskegee Experiment where a group of Black men infected with syphilis were not treated for decades, and the use of Baltimore woman Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells for biomedical research, still resound among African Americans. So there is fear that the experimentation will continue through this vaccine.
Johnson however wants to get the word out that the the coronavirus vaccines are in fact safe and not a part of any sinister experiment. The testing and research have included African Americans at the administrative and scientific levels, she said. One of them was Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who works with top government infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“That information, we can distribute very quickly through our churches and through our networks of notification,” said Johnson. “That’s the kind of intelligence that you’ve got to get to the people so they will understand it from people they trust.”
Slowly, more African Americans have said that they would take a vaccine once available. In October, only 43 percent said they would get it, according to a survey from Fierce Pharma. But a December poll by the Kaiser Foundation showed that number increased to 62 percent.
Johnson says that she would get the vaccine when it becomes available to her and believes now that it is being distributed, there is hope.
“I do believe that we have reached a point where we can see some light at the end of the tunnel,” she told the Morning News.
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