On January 7, the Black Coalition against COVID-19 hosted an online Town Hall, Making It Plain: What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines. Over 3,000 people attended the Town Hall. A team of top medical professionals spoke. They addressed questions about the virus itself, about the disproportionate impact on Black Americans, on approaches to fighting the virus, on the safety of the vaccines, and on trust in government. Members of the incoming Biden Administration, who will be responsible for handling issues of equity in health care, joined the conversation.
Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, an American viral immunologist at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that her lab has been working on coronavirus vaccines for the past 6 years, which is why production against the new coronavirus moved so quickly. “We had fundamental knowledge … to help us drive this rapid vaccine response … Everybody came together to do this quickly, ” she said. Dr. Corbett assured listeners that, “The vaccine’s sole purpose is to help us overcome this pandemic … there are no robots or microchips or tracer devices of any kind in the vaccine.”
Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, urged new approaches to getting the vaccine out to people. “The current method of distributing vaccines is insufficient to get the job done. What is needed beyond pharmacies and hospitals is a broader effort to include schools, libraries, universities, and community centers …we have got to use common sense and logistical data in order to do this well.”
Dr. Felicia Collins of the Office of Minority Health discussed the disproportionate rate of infection in Black communities across the nation. She blamed social determinants for the high rate.”Conditions such as the access and quality of health care, housing, transportation, job opportunities, access to education, and on and on. And of course we are disproportionately the essential workers,” she said.
Rev. Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York discussed the important role clergy can play in helping Black communities. “We are spiritual people, and we have a role to play. We need to make sure our people get their fair share of resources from the government … and we need to assure them that this vaccine is safe,” said Rev. Calvin Butts.