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Black Doctors and Nurses Are Urging Black Americans to Get COVID Vaccine

BCAC coalition.

Courtesy of the Black Coalition Against COVID

Key Takeaways

  • The Black Coalition Against COVID is a grassroots organization of healthcare providers and community leaders.
  • The organization is educating, informing, and encouraging Black individuals to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Healthcare providers can encourage COVID-19 vaccination by listening, acknowledging concerns, building trust, and providing accurate information.

In a Love Letter to the Black Community, a team of Black doctors and nurses is urging all Black people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Black Coalition Against COVID (BCAC) released the letter as one part of their plan to encourage the Black community to get vaccinated. "Our colleagues across healthcare know that we are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available," the letter states. "However, for this to be successful, they must do more to earn your trust—now and in the future."

What Is the Black Coalition Against COVID?

The BCAC is a cooperative of Black community leaders in healthcare, policy, and faith from the District of Columbia. They hope to encourage COVID vaccinations in Black Americans by providing trustworthy information from reputable Black doctors and leaders.

Reed Tuckson, MD, FACP, a founding member of the BCAC and managing director of Tuckson Health Connections, tells Verywell that the BCAC is getting that information out there in many ways.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BCAC engaged with the Black Washington area religious community, organized labor leaders, academic institutions, medical leaders, and entertainers to carry important messages. As the organization began confronting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, they brought together the American Medical Association and Black Nurses Society.

The BCAC then began to hold town halls that included members from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Anthony Fauci, and respected Black scientists.

“If you are going to fight a public health crisis, you have to have an engaged public,” Tuckson says. “Our efforts have been well received, and are giving us encouragement that there is a hunger for trustworthy information coming from trustworthy sources.”

Why Does Vaccine Hesitancy Exist?

At the root of most vaccine hesitancy lies distrust of the medical community. Historical examples such as the cases of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee syphilis study, as well as more recent discrimination at the hands of the medical system, remain fresh in the minds of many Black people.

“Historically there has been racism within the health system. Those stories and those feelings have been passed down from generation to generation," LaTasha Perkins, MD, a practicing family physician in Washington, D.C., tells Verywell. "The older generations have clear memories of that, and we still see health inequities today, so there is a level of mistrust that we have to be honest about, we have to own, and we have to address."

“What this pandemic has taught me is that distrust is a disease itself and that disease leads to death,” Tuckson adds.

Other barriers to access include a lack of approachable information about the vaccines, and difficulty accessing appointments. “The nature of science is complex, the language is unfamiliar, and the science education in most high schools is inadequate,” he says.

Some individuals may experience difficulties booking appointments online or lack transportation to vaccination sites. "There was a suboptimal initial effort by the federal government to provide resources to the Black community," Tuckson says.

What This Means For You

If you haven't yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, you can find an appointment near you at VaccineFinder.org.  If you want to help encourage hesitant people in your life to get vaccinated, our COVID-19 vaccine Healthy Conversation Coach can guide you through what to say—and what not to say—to someone expressing aversion toward the vaccines.

How to Rebuild Trust

“We are mounting a major effort between research and policy, and really focus on helping Americans of color to understand that you are reflected, your life matters, and we will work hard to be worthy of your trust," Tuckson says. "If we do not do this now, our response to the next crisis that occurs will also be suboptimal. The practitioner must be able to say to the patient, 'I care about you and I respect you.'”

The first step to rebuilding trust in scientific and medical institutions involves acknowledging the fears individuals may have and providing accurate, reliable facts addressing those concerns.

“People need to know that it’s ok to have questions," Tuckson says. "They need to know that we are supportive of the risk-benefit ratio, and we respect that process. We can provide them with trustworthy information that can clear up any misperceptions they have and give them a factual basis on which to make that decision.”

“Once people are more informed and their fears are addressed, then people are more likely to get the vaccine,” Perkins adds. “Social media is a great place to get accurate information, but there is some information out there that is not valid. There’s been a lot of unvalidated conspiracy theories that have been put out on the internet.”

The places and people who can administer the vaccines also make a difference.

“There are certain places that people within the Black community like to get their vaccines. Some may prefer to see their family doctor or primary care provider who they already trust,” Perkins says. “We need to get vaccines into family and primary care practices, which wasn’t an option before. The federal and state governments are starting to recognize that you have to have providers the Black community trust.”

Perkins also stresses the importance of healthcare providers getting vaccinated themselves. “Even Black providers who are on the front lines are shown less likely to get the vaccine than other groups, so share your story," she says. "People are more likely to get the vaccine if they know someone who has gotten it. Acknowledge that it’s a selfless choice that you are making for your community, and we appreciate you for that. You are making our jobs easier by protecting everyone else.”

Get Vaccinated Now

Tuckson and Perkins both emphasize the urgency for getting people vaccinated as soon as possible. “These next four to six weeks are determinant, and we all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to win this war," Tuckson says.

“The watch and wait policy is not a good one, because this is a race against time,” Perkins says. “If we want to have a normal Christmas and Thanksgiving this year, we all have to make some sacrifices now.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Henrietta Lacks: science must right a historical wrong. Nature. 2020;585(7823):7-7. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-02494-z