Health officials say they're concerned about low vaccination rates among Black healthcare workers in Mississippi. How are medical distrust and vaccine distribution are being addressed to close the disparity?
Black Mississippians make up around 35 of the state's total population, but only 17 percent of the state's coronavirus vaccines have been given to Black healthcare workers and long term care residents. Dr. Claude Brunson, Executive Director of the Mississippi State Medical Association, says there are two major hurdles to overcome to address this disparity. "One of the things is that availability of the vaccine and ability to get to a place where they can actually get the vaccine done," says Dr. Brunson. "In our community, there have been historical things that have gone on such as the Tuskegee Experiment that make folks in our community a little more reluctant about the vaccine."
Health officials say they're committed to getting vaccines to Black Mississippians and are working to get more doses to community health centers throughout the state. To promote trust in the vaccine, several Black doctors in the Jackson area are getting their shots together. Dr. Malcolm Taylor, a Cardiologist, says the studies of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are trustworthy and will help protect the Black community. "9-10% of the people in the study, a study of 40,000 people, were African American. So we have data to support the use of this vaccine in everyone, including African Americans," says Dr. Taylor. "So I want to encourage African Americans, and everyone, to get the vaccine. Be safe. Wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. And get vaccinated."
Currently, vaccines are only available for healthcare employees and long term care residents, but Mississippians over the age of 75 can now go online or call (877)-978-6453 to begin scheduling a vaccination appointment for next week.