A task force of faith-based organizations in black and minority communities has formed to help educate and combat misinformation about a COVID-19 vaccine. The group aims to help get the vaccine to at least 60 percent of Florida’s minority community.
Vaccination throughout Florida has been a logistical challenge since December. But members of the Florida Statewide COVID-19 Community Engagement Task Force know there’s an added challenge when it comes to communities of color.
“We are passing the mic to others who are trusted because of their knowledge of the science and how the vaccine works,” Bishop A.J. Richardson said. “And whether or not it can be trusted. Knowing what our history has been in the United States regarding vaccines and experiments that have not done so well within the Black and Brown communities.”
The group recently launched in an effort to organize a coalition of faith leaders, doctors and other community stakeholders. It aims to dispel myths about the virus and its vaccine. Black and Brown communities have expressed reluctance to participate in vaccinations. That’s due to a history of state-sponsored medical experiments like the 40-year long Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Task force chair RB Holmes said some of that trust will come from the state’s historically Black colleges and universities. He added it’s time to leave that mindset in the past.
“We must save lives. We thank god for 2021,” he said. “It’s a new year. We cannot bring an old mindset to this.”
COVID-19 has killed more than 357,000 in the U.S., including more than 20,000 in Florida. And the virus has had a disproportionate effect on minority communities. According to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Hispanic communities are each hospitalized at about four times the rate of white counter parts. Each community dies at nearly three times the rate of white counterparts.
Former Tallahassee mayor John Marks said fighting the virus is a war.
“I look at this like as a war,” Marks said. “And we have to mobilize our troops to make sure that our communities are helped in this effort.”
Organizers said primary focuses will be to make sure underserved communities have access to the vaccine; spread information with targeted messaging through a multimedia communication plan; and create achievable, measurable goals for accountability.
The CDC has stated Black and Hispanic communities are more vulnerable to the virus because of underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable like socioeconomic status; access to health care; and exposure to the virus because of virus-related occupations.
Reverend Holmes said COVID further exposed health disparities among minority communities. He promised the Task Force would work to help eradicate them.
“Prior to COVID-19, Black and Brown people were living in health deserts and food deserts,” Holmes said. “What COVID-19 did was just expose the great, sinful, devastating health disparities that has to stop.”
The Task Force will meet next week. It will unveil details of its plan to educate and vaccinate minority communities across the entire state of Florida.
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