The remedy for COVID-19 continues to be plagued by issues of inequity and disparity.
- Across the country, health officials are seeing a consistent pattern of Black and Hispanic Americans getting smaller shares of COVID-19 vaccinations. In today's Ones for Wellness, I spoke with a group of local experts about why and what needs to change.
Dr. Vivian Johnson and Dr. Carolee Estelle are both with Parkland Health and Hospital System. And Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew is the VP of community affairs for the State Fair of Texas. She's helping Parkland reach out to the Black community.
VIVIAN JOHNSON: The Black community, they have a right to be really concerned and hesitant about whether or not, you know, years from now, are we going to find that we have this-- we've had the same experience that we had, you know, before.
- The panel points to the past. The Tuskegee experiment between 1932 and 1972 looked at untreated syphilis. The African-American men who participated in the study were told they were receiving treatment, but they were not, even after penicillin was discovered to be a cure.
CAROLEE ESTELLE: Other things that were done, you know, historically without consent-- surgeries were performed on women who, particularly, you know, in reproductive investigation. They were evaluating doing surgeries without anesthesia, doing, you know, sterilizing. And the reality is the Black community is not alone in these atrocities. It's happened in the Hispanic community. This has happened in many immigrant communities as they've come. This has also happened in other marginalized communities in-- in places around the world.
- It's that history that these doctors are now working to overcome.
CAROLEE ESTELLE: Learning from histories, control measures have been in place to ensure that that doesn't occur again.
- Part of that process, sharing their own stories.
FROSWA BOOKER-DREW: And I'm going to be honest. I was apprehensive in getting the vaccine for that very reason.
- For Dr. Booker-Drew, the moment of change was the loss of a young man she'd known since he was a toddler.
FROSWA BOOKER-DREW: Chris was 22 years old, was about to graduate from Austin College in May.
VIVIAN JOHNSON: I do think that once you start-- it start having an effect on you close up, then you say, hey, I got to-- I got to think more seriously about this.
- All of the doctors agree, the divide in vaccination numbers runs even deeper than history.
CAROLEE ESTELLE: There's not one answer to the why. But it-- you know, it's-- because it's not just access. And it's not just, you know, where you're at. And it's not just how much money do you or don't you have. And it's not just do you or don't you have insurance. And it's not just the sort of structural sort of policies that have fought against all of those things. It's all of these things together.
- A part of bridging that divide is the representation. People are being able to talk to doctors who look like them. And that is why all of the doctors are making it a point to talk to their friends, their family, their community members. And that's really just one of the ways in which Parkland is working to address the disparities in those who are getting the vaccine.