Health officials working to fight vaccine misinformation in the Black community

“It’s a national problem. It’s not just Louisiana.”

NEW ORLEANS — A local health expert said myths about the COVID-19 vaccine circulating on social media are harmful, especially to the African-American community.

So he, and other black members of the medical community, are working to get the message out about vaccine safety from trusted people.

“You’re going to put it around your ear. You’re going to cover your nose and mouth. and yes, baby, it should be tight,” entertainer Big Freeida said in an educational video about how a mask should be worn.

Big Freeida is one of the well-known people helping doctors give COVID safety facts to African-Americans. Dr. Thomas LaVeist said it’s important in the Black community to hear from people you know.

“Mistrust is a huge part of medical practice and we’ve got to really overcome a lot of history, as well as contemporary things that have generated the distrust,” said Dr. Thomas LaVeist, Dean of the School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine at Tulane University.

The mistrust brought about by events like the Tuskegee experiment of the 1930s.

Polls show African-Americans are less likely to want a COVID-19 vaccine.

Louisiana vaccine percentages of Blacks is low, compared to the state’s population. Though it’s hard to know the true numbers since the information wasn’t collected on more than a third of people vaccinated.

LOUISIANA POPULATION:
32{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} African-American
60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} White

LOUISIANA COVID VACCINES:
16{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} African-American
47{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} White
35-36{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} Unknown

Dr. LaVeist said it’s an issue doctors are aware of.

“It’s a national problem. It’s not just Louisiana,” he explained about the lower percentages of those vaccinated in the black community.

So they are being proactive. Dr. LaVeist is co-chair of the governor’s task force on health equity and COVID-19. It is creating a plan for vaccine distribution. They are using influencers to talk one-on-one in the community and messages through the social media campaign “The Skin You’re In.” 

Dr. LaVeist is putting his message in an editorial to the New York Times, and Black members of the National Academy of Medicine are producing a video message.

“The goal of that project is to speak really to influencers, to celebrities, athletes, pastors, other people that can influence the broader community, to try to give them some assurance that the vaccine is safe and effective,” he said.

Dr. LaVeist said it’s the virus, not the vaccine, that should be feared.

“Even if you have a mild case of COVID, and or even if it is a severe case and you survive, we know that many people continue to struggle even after they’ve gotten through their hospitalization,” he said.

And he said wear your mask even after you get your shots because we don’t know yet if the virus can still spread after you’re vaccinated.

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