As we hit this pandemic turning point with the arrival of a vaccine, there are leaders of the Black Faith called to allay fears and reverse misinformation.
“It’s interesting, I think some of them just don’t know what to expect and they don’t want to be the first. And so they’re a little hesitant,” said Rev. Prince Rivers, pastor of Union Baptist. Church in Durham.
If Sunday services ever get back on track, if at Union Baptist Pastor Rivers believes a wide distribution of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is the only shot. His congregation is 5,000 members strong, mostly black and he has heard some skepticism about vaccination.
“I think people have heard nothing negative about the vaccine. It’s misinformation or lack of information at all,” River said.
Experts rely on local faith leaders to counter skepticism and reluctance about the vaccine against COVID. One local pastor is working to get solid science-based information to his herd. We talk to him about his work and what motivates distrust in marginalized communities. # abc11 pic.twitter.com/z1jdrDWkpX
– Joel Brown (@ JoelBrownABC11) December 15, 2020
On the special Monday night 20/20 about the vaccine, The Shot: A Race for the Vaccine, experts emphasized the need for reliable voices within communities to talk about the vibrant science that has developed.
“There’s a lot of data on how reluctant people will get the vaccine,” said philanthropist Bill Gates.
But in the Black community, disproportionately affected by COVID-19, there are levels of distrust – formed by the times when science was not of the people of color.
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The Tuskegee Experiment took place in the 1930s, when black hubbubs were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” when in fact there was a study to see what happens when syphilis is left untreated. Or a North Carolina Eugenics Board, when the state sterilized thousands of women, mostly black and poor women, against their will.
“And so there are people who have a sense of distrust if they have all the information they need to make a decision,” Rivers said.
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While the vaccine reaches medical experts at state-level and private levels, they say they rely on local faith leaders to be a pivotal bridge to marginalized communities whose suspicions of a vaccine may be linked to a complicated history.
“I think faith communities and faith leaders have a big role to play in this,” Rivers said. “First step is to get the right information.”
Rivers called it a responsibility he takes very seriously. Next month, Union Baptist plans to host a series of online forums with NCDHHS officials. Discussions aimed to give an opportunity to his community and public to get solid up-to-date information to make their own informed decision about the vaccine.
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