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Black leaders ramp up efforts to close the ‘racial gap' in COVID-19 vaccination rates

Posted at 6:39 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:39:55-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — At the start of the month, the CDC’s data tracker reported blacks trailed whites about six to one being fully vaccinated. As we near the end of August, the needle hasn’t moved much. And as of Aug. 25, 9.3% percent of Blacks are fully vaccinated, compared to 59.1% of Whites.

Some officials call the numbers disappointing and there’s a call to action amongst Black elected officials to boost vaccine confidence.

Palm Beach County Caucus of Black elected officials president Lawrence Gordon is baffled by the vaccination rate amongst Blacks.

”We’re dealing with a double whammy, a lack of action and then lots of things — misinformation of disinformation,” Gordon said.

He’s also written an op-ed entitled, History Aside: Blacks Should Get the COVID Vaccine Shot asking all elected officials to step up and lead by example.

”The most important thing we can be is transparent open and honest. Those are the most important thing we can be,” he said.

Gordon’s no-nonsense about the level of mistrust that exists in Black communities after years of mistreatment in the name of science and American advancement during and post-slavery.

”We definitely don’t want to forget those things but we want to move forward,” Gordon said.

For Gordon and a growing list of others that means being an extension of the medical community and using their feet and social media pages to educate their constituents.

“I think it’s great to let the public know that they’re vaccinated,” said Rep. Omari Hardy, Florida House of Representatives District 88. “The fight for vaccine equity has shifted from fighting for access early on when vaccines were not available in the black community to now doing our best to inform the Black community as to the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.”

”We’re not just talking but we’re walking the walk,” Gordon added.

Both men have garnered support from both the medical and religious communities. T. Leroy Jefferson medical society chairperson Dr. Karl Michel says communities look up to their elected leaders.

“It is important for people to see people in high places take the first step and give the example — be the example,” Michel said. “We all play the part doing what we need to do to come out of this pandemic.”

Sentiments echoed by people also in child and youth services in Palm Beach County.

”If they see that leaders are trusting the process — then they will trust the process as well,” said Berkley Finley, Men of Tomorrow Program director.

”At some point, we have to make those adjustments and start moving towards what’s truly not best for us — but society at large,” Gordon added.

Also, Rep. Hardy is working with Palm Beach County doctors to form an advisory council to address COVID and other issues impacting communities of color.