By: Roy Douglas Malonson
Just in case you need any more proof that COVID is indeed REAL and should be taken seriously, this week, the Houston area’s Memorial Hermann Hospital system re-implemented a policy stating that visitors will no longer be allowed at any of its facilities. Why? Because of fear of exposure to the rapidly spreading, highly transmissible Delta variant.
Memorial Hermann released a statement saying it believes this difficult decision is necessary to protect the health and safety of its employees, physician partners, patients and the community, adding that there will be very limited exceptions to the no visitor policy, and all visitors will be required to clear a health screening before entering any facility, and MUST wear a Memorial Hermann-provided mask.
If it seems that we are going backwards, it is probably because we are! People are continuing to mistrust the government instead of following the science and getting the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Reaching high vaccination rates across our communities will be key for achieving broad protection, mitigating the disproportionate impacts of the virus for people of color. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that vaccine equity is an important goal, further defining equity as preferential access and administration to those who have been most affected by COVID-19.
According to KFF.org, White people account for the largest share of people who remain unvaccinated (57%), but Black and Hispanic people are less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk.
Studies have found that many Black Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated because of the nation’s historical atrocities against Blacks when it comes to medical research, most notably, the Tuskegee experiments from 1932-1972, which recruited 600 Black men — 399 who had syphilis and 201 who did not. Back then, health officials “tricked” the men, tracking the disease’s progression but not treating the men as they all died or suffered severe health issues.
We know and respect the saying, “if you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it,” but many are confusing that message. Knowing what happened to the victims of the Tuskegee Experiment empowers us to join together, hold others accountable and make forward movements to truly save our lives.
Blacks have historically received the short end of the stick due to racism in health care, voter suppression and disparities in the criminal justice system, and all of the disinformation spreading on social media is also stoking vaccine fears. Myths are circulating claiming the vaccine will interact with your DNA and impact fertility, or that if people eat healthy, they don’t need a vaccine.
The White House is leading an initiative to combat vaccine hesitancy by launching campaigns, planning and promoting more vaccine clinics and even partnering with hair salons and barbershops, both thought of as “cultural hubs” in the Black community, with hopes of reaching more Black people who remain skeptical about the shot.
The Black Coalition Against COVID has partnered with the White House in its initiative and is leaving no stone unturned in an effort to get shots in arms. They are working with groups of formerly and currently incarcerated people to get them vaccinated and have also collaborated with an NFL alumni group with hopes that big-name athletes can help build trust in the vaccine.
As of August 2, 2021, the CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for 58% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (59%), 10% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 8% reported multiple or other races.
As observed in prior weeks, Black and Hispanic people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and compared to their shares of the total population in most states. The share of vaccinations received by Black people also continues to be smaller than their share of deaths in most states.
State data shows nearly 60% of eligible Texans have received a coronavirus vaccine, but the number of shots administered each week has dropped steadily since a peak in early April. At that time, the state lifted the restrictions on who could get a shot, now opening it up for anyone 12 and older.
A recent poll shows one in 5 unvaccinated Texans are at least somewhat open to a shot but have not scheduled an appointment for various reasons. About 34% cited side effects as a factor, but public health experts say the side effects are far less than the risk of contracting COVID-19, which has killed more than 51,350 Texans. Also, according to data, 16% said they are “waiting to see” to others and 11% feel they don’t have enough information.
Some fence-sitters said they haven’t scheduled a vaccination appointment because they don’t want the shot, while others said they haven’t, simply, because of busy schedules.
We said all of that to say this — nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated. We have neither the time, nor the luxury of sitting on any fences when it comes to our health. It is time to make the right decisions for your lives.