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Civil rights groups work to convince Black communities to get vaccine

Civil rights groups work to convince Black communities to get vaccine
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One of the largest hurdles associated with the coronavirus pandemic — the creation of a viable vaccine — has been scaled as the first Americans received the injection on Monday.

But the nation now faces the sizable challenge of convincing the majority of the country — especially minority communities — to get the inoculation.

Communities of color, but in particular Black communities, have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black people in the U.S. are 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.8 times more likely to die than white people. Native American and Latino people are hospitalized at about four times the rate of white people because of COVID-19 and are over 2.5 times more likely to die.

Yet in a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 42 percent of the Black adults surveyed said they would get the vaccine. Overall, it found that 60 percent of Americans would either “definitely” or “probably” receive the vaccination for a disease that has killed more than 300,000 people in the U.S.

Black communities' wariness of taking a drug at the behest of the federal government is reasonable.

In 1932, the Public Health Service started what is now commonly referred to as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The Black men who participated in the study were given free medical exams as payment but were never offered treatment for the disease, even after penicillin became the main form of treatment for syphilis. Moreover, although all of the subjects agreed to be part of the study, they did so unaware of the nature of the study and were, in fact, misled by researchers.

Far from being ancient history, the federal study wasn’t ended until 1972.

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That’s created an uphill climb of sorts for the federal government and outside groups seeking to ensure that Black communities are near the top of the list to get the vaccine.

Both the government and civil rights groups are actively trying to placate the deep rooted distrust ingrained in these communities.

The NAACP is holding a town hall Wednesday night that will feature a handful of Black high-level figures. Marcella Nunez-SmithMarcella Nunez-SmithOvernight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers Mistrust of government is significant roadblock to Black American vaccination efforts MORE, a Yale physician who was named co-chair of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE’s coronavirus advisory board, and National Institutes of Health senior researcher Kizzmekia Corbett, who was on the front lines of vaccine development, will both be present. Sen. Cory BookerCory Booker'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis It's in America's best interest to lead global COVID-19 vaccine distribution ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent MORE (D-N.J.) will also participate in the virtual event.

A Biden transition official told The Hill that the incoming administration was “planning on how to communicate in the most creative, transparent and effective ways to reach Americans where they are,” adding that more in-depth details of plans would be released “in the coming weeks."

Transparency from both the incoming and outgoing administrations is paramount, National Urban League president Marc Morial noted. 

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“There's really been no transparency with respect to the distribution plan that's been put together by the Trump administration,” Morial said. “We hear that health care workers will get it first. We hear that vulnerable Americans will get it … but there's been no clear definition of who are vulnerable Americans.”

“There has to be a well-thought out, well-funded advertising campaign which is designed to give people information,” Morial continued. “People need to know that the clinical trials process included people of all backgrounds, all races. … People have to understand why the process around testing for this vaccine [was] very different than what happened during the Tuskegee experiment.

The civil rights leader also noted the importance of having Black doctors and researchers that were a part of the vaccine creation process like Corbett be featured in the advertising.

Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Mark Weber signaled that a multiplatform advertising campaign from the federal government will be rolled out soon.

“The vaccine acceptance effort is focused on what we are calling ‘the movable middle,’ ” Weber told The Hill in a statement. “Both the message and messengers must be credible. We are rapidly conducting research with key audiences to ensure the message and the advertising are effective. These issues along with many others are shaping the public education strategy.”

Phased into the advertising efforts would be “tailored messaging to groups who are disproportionately affected and areas of the country with the highest infection rates,” Weber said.