ARLINGTON, Texas — The Arlington chapter of the NAACP is working to change cultural differences that make Black Americans less likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 despite the disproportionate effects of the pandemic.
“This is serious,” said chapter president Alisa Simmons.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Black communities especially hard, including a percent-test-positive median range that’s almost twice as high as that of white Americans.
COVID-19 hospitalization rates are also 3.7 times higher and death rates are 2.8 times higher, according to the CDC.
Despite the disproportionate effects, African Americans are less likely to seek vaccines, not just for COVID-19, according to the CDC: They are 10 percent less likely to be vaccinated for HPV or the seasonal flu.
“There is a history of medical mistrust among the African American community,” Simmons said.
The organization streamed a panel discussion Tuesday with doctors and nurses of color.
“It’s got to be people that look like us that we feel like we can trust and believe,” Simmons said.
Panelists including healthcare workers and Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja discussed the importance of educating families about racial inequities and dispelling rumors about the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We just can’t have this equity gap,” Taneja said. “It’s a bad thing for our community. The pandemic laid it bare. The African American community got hurt quite a bit and we just can’t continue to have that.”
Simmons said the NAACP Arlington chapter is not telling families to get vaccinated, but said access to reliable information is the best way for them to make up their own minds.
Simmons said at least one mind was changed in Tuesday’s panel.
“I was not jumping up and down to be the first in line to get the COVID vaccine…but after what I heard last night I’m going to go ahead and get in line,” Simmons said.