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COVID Q&A: A Look At The Huge Problem With Vaccination Disparity In The Country

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CBS4's Eliott Rodriguez and Lauren Pastrana spoke with Dr. Kevin Stephens with UnitedHealthcare.

Video Transcript

LAUREN PASTRANA: And we're joined now by Dr. Kevin Stephens from UnitedHealthCare. And there's a huge problem with the vaccination disparity in the country right now. According to Bloomberg vaccine tracker, less than 4% of African-Americans here in Florida have received a single dose of the vaccine. So is this just a matter of access to the vaccine, or is there more to it, Doctor?

KEVIN STEPHENS: I think it's a lot more to it. Some of it is access, but a lot of it is just resistance and just hesitancy, because of just insecurity about the vaccine, because of things in the past.

ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: And so, Doctor, how do you suggest we can overcome that resistance and that hesitancy? My understanding is even taking the flu vaccine, African-Americans may be reluctant to take that. How do we overcome that hurdle?

You know, if the past is prologue for the present, then we know for the American health rankings, that about 60%, 36% of African-Americans got the flu shot, that's compared to 46% of Caucasians, but that is still very low. And so I think one of the things we have to do is really say, look, the mortality rate, if you look at we have had over 500,000 deaths in a year time, which is more than World War I and World War II together. And so with the death rates, I think people have to understand that this virus is dangerous.

Unlike the flu, the death rate and the flu is much less, but with this virus is severe. And so we need to do what we can to protect. And then the second thing, of course, is the comorbidities, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and we know African-Americans have a generally higher prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. And so are you at greater risk just because of your environmental status. And so we really have to do everything we can, face mask, social distancing of six feet, as well as be vaccinated.

LAUREN PASTRANA: Dr. Stephens, UnitedHealthCare has a new online vaccine resource tool. We know how important information and education can be. So how exactly does that tool work? And does it work with state and federal sites that have already been set up?

KEVIN STEPHENS: Yeah, Lauren, that's a great question, because UnitedHealthCare, what we have done is created on our website, UHC.com, you can go there. You put the zip code in, and then it will tell you the state and local health departments where the pharmacies, where vaccines are available.

So that you put the zip code in. Then you can find places where you can go so you can register to make sure you have access. You know, there are so many pharmacies. And there's so much going on, so much confusion.

But here you can go one spot in one place. And we update it daily. We have to staff, people who are constantly working to make sure that we can have a very accurate repository for all of the places that you can get it. And, again, it's not 100% complete, but we've working to make it as complete as possible.

ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: And finally, Doctor, what's your message to members of the African-American community, who may still be hesitant about taking the vaccine?

KEVIN STEPHENS: Well, the first thing is, I've taking it. And so you know-- and then, so with that being said, I think that you have to look at the risk factors. And you have to talk to your provider, but certainly we know that the virus can be deadly.

And we do know that the vaccine will definitely help. It won't stop you from getting the virus, but we know it's 95% effective against having severe illnesses and deaths. And so that's really a big problem. So I highly suggest that you consider it and talk to your provider about it.

LAUREN PASTRANA: Dr. Kevin Stephens with the UnitedHealthCare. Thanks so much for your insight tonight.

ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Doctor.

KEVIN STEPHENS: OK. Thank you, Lauren and Eliott. Anytime you need me, I can come back on and then share what I have.


ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: I appreciate that very much.