Black Families Prioritize Protection from COVID-19

When America gets a cold, the Black community gets pneumonia. This is a saying that is well known to many who pay attention to areas of health care and health equity in this health-compromised and vulnerable population of America. Yes, there is a cold – there is pneumonia and now there is COVID-19. Once again, those of highest risk are the most adversely affected. As a national advocate for equity and a research consultant for the national We Can Do This COVID-19 vaccination campaign, these are not my musings. Just look at the data.   

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Black individuals are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 infections than their white counterparts. They also report that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, and twice as likely to die than their White counterparts if that cause is the COVID-19 virus. Studies are pending regarding the effects of known variants of the virus on this same population, but there is no evidence to date to suggest that the data will positively affect the current disparate results.  

Looking at the myriad of commercials and ads regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, one would expect that the rates of infection and complications would demonstrate more positive outcomes and a closing of the gap would occur for this community. However, this is not the case. COVID-19 vaccination rates lag behind their White counterparts on all levels (initial vaccine and boosters). Simply putting the vaccine out there has not encouraged people to go get them. A different approach and attack plan is needed and necessary. Do we continue to shake our heads and talk about it, or do we authentically engage in known strategies to move towards an equitable prevention plan to reverse this inequitable trend?   

Research data, both primary and secondary, has disclosed several barriers viewed by the Black community as it relates to receiving the vaccine. Causes identified were vaccine hesitancy due to a lack of trust in providers and the healthcare system. It was clear that simply providing the vaccine in community locations was not enough to drive individuals to the site, and that other strategies were necessary to increase engagement and decision-making around the virus itself and ways to reduce it include vaccination and other preventative measures.   

According to research conducted by the We Can Do This COVID-19 Public Education Campaign, the use of culturally-linked partnerships with known organizations like black sororities, fraternities, social and fraternal organization, culturally-targeted media programming where trusted messengers reflect the community of interest, as well as culturally-targeted community outreach rose to a priority level when community was interviewed regarding their thoughts on the vaccine. Data also indicated that work hours and school activities as well as the lack of transportation to several of the vaccine sites due to bus and public transportation interruptions were a big reason for the lack of intakes. There was also discussion around the lack of registration and understanding from information presented regarding the vaccine. 

It is clear that our community must respect and trust that even with a culturally-targeted effort on improving health delivery systems that the removal of institutional barriers continue to exist. There is no one size fits all when it comes to addressing health equity issues. We must find the size that fits the most adversely affected segment of the American family and work from there. We, too are America. 

And, that’s Real Talk! 

*CMRignite is a subcontractor to the Fors Marsh Group for the HHS COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. The firm is a social impact and cause marketing agency that engaged in a project to understand the root causes of low vaccination rates in Black communities.