Alaska Black Caucus working to address vaccine concerns among communities of color

Updated: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:36 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A number of people among Black and African American communities are skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Alaska Black Caucus, but they are working with Black medical professionals to try and address that.

Celeste Hodge Growden, president and CEO of the caucus said that skepticism towards the medical community isn’t a new concept for many people of color.

“There’s a history of distrust when it comes to medical care for people of color,” she said.

From the Tuskegee experiment in the 1900s, where hundreds of African American men were promised government healthcare but left untreated for a serious disease, to a 2020 study from Northwestern University showing racial disparities among newborn survival rates, Growden said the skepticism is not without merit. She added those concerns around historical mistreatment extend to the COVID-19 vaccines.

“When it comes to this vaccine... I have to be honest, you know, I was reluctant too,” she said.

But the caucus is also taking steps to get accurate information about the vaccine out. At a community conversation Sunday, Black medical professionals spoke about the vaccine’s mechanics, its distribution, and the pandemic as a whole.

“A lot of the situations that are happening that have been making people of color more susceptible to COVID, it’s more of the treatment that you have, and the care that you’re getting when you have COVID,” said Dr. Jocasta Olp, a pharmacist from the conversation’s panel.

Professionals were able to address the concerns of many in the conversation including Hodge Growden and Sen. Elvi Gray Jackson, D-Alaska.

“What’s hard for me is how reluctant so many people of color are to take this vaccination, and when you think about it, we’re the folks who were affected a lot by the situation, by the coronavirus,” she said, referring to racial disparities in deaths and hospitalizations during the pandemic.

Hodge Growden added the caucus is making plans to further work with Black medical professionals to address larger concerns around the medical community.

“It wasn’t until I talked to doctors that looked like me, and learned and became more educated on the vaccine, did I make that turnaround,” she said.

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