DC leaders, medical experts urge communities of color to get COVID-19 vaccine

A group of D.C. government leaders and medical experts took part in an online forum to further encourage people of color to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to dispel any myths about its safety.

The event, hosted by DC Health Link in partnership with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health, featured several panelists who also answered questions that were submitted ahead of time.

The overall message during the discussion was clear.

“Please get vaccinated,” D.C. Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage said during his opening remarks. “It will literally save your life.”

While acknowledging the lack of trust among the Black community based on past encounters with unethical government medical experiments, Turnage explained that the current COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will not lead to sickness.

“Once it’s injected into your body, your body is forced to make spiked proteins that have the appearance of the real virus and thus, your immune system is tricked into making antibodies,” said Turnage, who also laid out some facts concerning racial disparities that justify the need for the vaccine.

“[The chance of] contracting COVID-19 for Blacks is 1.4 times greater than for whites. For getting hospitalized if you contract COVID-19, it’s 3.7 times greater for Blacks than they are for whites. And dying from COVID-19 is 2.8 times greater for Blacks.”

In the Hispanic community, Turnage said the numbers are either “equal or greater” than those of the Black community.

Unfounded doubt about the COVID-19 vaccine hampers efforts to inoculate as many people as possible, especially in high-risk areas, city leaders said.

“When we prioritize populations for vaccination by ward, neighborhood and ZIP codes, they still have to be ready to sign up,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said. “If that hesitation is there, all of our efforts at the system level [to vaccinate] will fall short.”

Other experts chimed in about the vaccine’s safety.

Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Ashlee Williams said she herself got the vaccine. Aside from a little arm soreness, she now has peace of mind.

“And the more people that we get out there to get this vaccine, hopefully the sooner this pandemic can end,” Williams said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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