With the first of the Covid-19 vaccines being distributed to healthcare workers across Tennessee, many people are ready to get back to life as normal.
However, for many other residents in Hamilton County and across the rest of the state, including minority communities, these vaccines come with distrust.
While the Covid vaccine is steadily being distributed to the workers who have been on the front line during this pandemic, it should be available to the general public at some point during January.
With this wide availability, any mistrust will likely be properly addressed to encourage everyone to get the vaccine.
Meharry Medical College in Nashville has already started to address some of these concerns.
They have been a trusted source of information for minority communities since the start of this pandemic and have begun to collaborate with minority leaders, specifically in the Black and Latino communities, in order to work toward building trust when it comes to the new vaccine.
The dean of Meharry’s dentistry school, Dr. Charea Farmer-Dixon, said, “We see ourselves as being embedded in the community. This is not new to us.. it’s something we’ve always done since our inception. I say that to say that there’s a level of trust, and a lot of times when there’s a lot of uncertainty around health care, people are going to look to those they trust for guidance, and Meharry certainly sees itself in that role.”
Meharry plans to keep their website updated with information about the Covid-19 vaccine so community members can learn everything they need to about it. They hope to make this information as widespread as they can in hopes of gaining more trust for the vaccine.
President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee, Reginal French, said, “There’s a bigger issue when we talk about clinical trials, and that bigger issue is addressing mistrust. We have to find ways to address deeply rooted mistrust in the health care system, which is going to take a little more time and a little more effort based on past traumas.”
In May of this year, The Unity Group of Chattanooga said that minority communities in Hamilton County were at a disadvantage when it came to Covid testing and how easily they could receive it.
Even so, in May, 49% of positive test results in Hamilton County came from Hispanic citizens.
Across the nation, African Americans were 2.6 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than someone who is not a minority.
This is part of the reason that minority communities in Chattanooga are wary of a new vaccine and how it will affect them.
“We can have a vaccine but obviously we have to deal with some reality, and the reality is the overall mistrust, and the facts are there that people of color have well-founded mistrust in the health care system,” French said. He went on to add, “It’s going to take a lot of community engagement and a lot of partnering with community leaders to make communities of color feel more comfortable with it.”