Vaccination Rate Remains Low for Black Residents Vaccination Rate Remains Low for Black Residents

Only 7% of Onondaga County Blacks Have at Least One Dose

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Victory Temple Fellowship Church served as a pop-up vaccination site March 18. That’s where Rev. H. Bernard Alex, the church’s bishop and senior pastor, got his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Before getting his first shot, Alex was nervous.

“My nervousness was because of what I heard people say,” Alex said.

Although the pastor had his concerns, he knew he had to do it to protect his family and community. He also wanted to be an example to those who looked up to him as a leader. Alex said over 100 people received their first dose of a vaccine that day. The pastor said about 95% of those people were Black, which he considered a success.

“It was successful in that the relationship that we, the church, has in this community served as a bridge builder for people to trust the safety of the vaccine,” Alex said.

Alex believes there’s a lot of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines because of cultural issues and healthcare disparities in the Black community. The pastor also believes the 1932 Tuskegee experiment has created a lot of fear in Black people.

The pastor advocates for Black people to get vaccinated but understands why many are still hesitant after seeing him and other Black leaders, local and national, get vaccinated.

“There were persons that even said to me they felt like it was selective, that the virus was created to almost, like the purge, clean out select groups, demographic of people and part of those were the poor, indigenous, and African American,” Alex said.

According to New York state vaccination demographic data, only 7% of Black residents in Onondaga County have at least one vaccine dose. Asian residents account for 4.6% of those with at least one dose and those who identify as “other” account for 1.6%. White residents account for 86.7% of those with at least one dose.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, multiple mass vaccination sites in New York are downsizing to focus on communities with low vaccination rates. Syracuse offers a weekly vaccination clinic at the Civic Center in addition to pop-up clinics in the community.

Alex believes it’ll take more than pop-up clinics to get Black residents vaccinated. He said Black residents need to see trusted, vaccinated community leaders who look like them be the “face” of pop-up clinics.

“Neighborhood iconic people, those activists, those that work in youth engagement, coaches, people that the parents as well as the teens and young adults know,” Alex said.

Dr. Shawnte Hall Kraft, who specializes in family medicine, also believes trusted Black community leaders will help raise Black vaccination rates because they’re more tangible compared to celebrities and popular sports figures.

“The consequence of not having a vaccine can be severe coronavirus and being in the ICU, which far outweighs the small number of side effects that we are hearing,” Kraft said.

Kraft believes that people learning about the vaccines for themselves is key. In addition, she believes it’s important to ask questions to trusted people including doctors and community leaders.

“Know that it’s protecting your community and your family,” Kraft said.

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