Alarming disparities as the vaccine becomes available

Black Americans aren’t getting the vaccine at the same rate as whites. Photo courtesy Lennihan/Pool via Reuters

The COVID vaccine has arrived, but African Americans aren’t being inoculated for COVID-19 at the same rate as white Americans.

According to Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine report, which is updated daily, over 25,000 Leon County residents have received the first dose of the vaccination. White-Americans outpaced African-Americans with about 60%, while African-Americans represented only 8.5% of those receiving the inoculation.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Jan. 12 there were new guidelines that expanded the COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to everyone 65 years old and above, as well as those 16-64 years old with co-morbid conditions like diabetes.

 Science news reported that African-Americans have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions. Among those at the highest risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19 are people with other serious health problems, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, 40 percent of African  Americans have high blood pressure among the highest rates in the world.

Due to racial disparities in Leon County, the African-American community may be skeptical about the vaccine, due rot a long-standing pattern of discrimination against minorities by the medical establishment.

Photo courtesy

Believing that African Americans’ mistrust can be combated, Elaine Bryant, a former Tallahassee city commissioner, has witnessed how the virus affects Leon County’s communities differently. Bryant is also a member of a COVID-19 vaccine task force intended to direct and educate the uninformed communities. “The messaging, the outreach has to be different,” Bryant said. “With different populations, especially with people who already distrust the very message that’s coming, they need trusted voices to actually speak on behalf of the benefits,” Bryant added.

Local leaders anticipate a demographic imbalance in the vaccine because of longtime barriers to health care and a deep distrust among Black communities of government-involved health initiatives. However, the local health department believes the African-American rate will go up once COVID-19 vaccines are more readily available. According to the Washington Post, President Biden’s administration, he and his aides are promising 150 million coronavirus shots in 100 days.

The Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., with Bethel Missionary Baptist church in Tallahassee, is chairman of a statewide coronavirus vaccination community education and engagement task force. Holmes’ goal is to get 60-70% of communities of color vaccinated by the end of 2021. The task force also wants to partner with the Florida Department of Health to establish vaccine sites at more Black churches, community centers, and at Florida’s four historically Black colleges and universities. The task force was formed due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continuing to spike as Florida struggles to distribute doses of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna vaccines that have already been delivered to the state. “My friend, this is a sense of urgency. We feel that these vaccines are a gift of life. We know unfortunately, and sadly, that people of color are dying disproportionately,” Holmes said.

The Leon County Department of Health’s second COVID-19 shipment has arrived with 4,875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to its website. The Leon County Department of Health also states it has partnered with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare to distribute 3,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Leon County residents 65 years and older. The statewide COVID-19 call center is now also answering questions about the COVID-19 vaccine 24/7. Residents should call 1-866-779-6121.