WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Closing the racial gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates has been the mission of one task force since the first vaccination rolled out. Months later, the disparity still exists. But how serious is it? And what’s the reason for it? WPTV spoke to a group of black medical professionals who say “masking up” — isn’t enough.
Blacks aren’t a monolith and West Palm’s Park Plaza offers a lot of Black variety. But one thing is apparently agreed upon: masking up.
”I’m protecting myself and others,” said Kevin Price, a masked shopper.
In fact, we had a hard time finding people not masked up. And some members of the medical community are taking to the streets to say that’s not good enough.
”Well you can’t do what you used to do. That’s very obvious. You can’t do what you used to do. You need to go and get the vaccine because that’s what’s going to save you life,” Colette Brown-Graham, MD, T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society Board member.
It’s a message the society’s COVID task force has been pushing since it became available. They’re working hard to get people of color educated and vaccinated.
“We don’t want people to suffer the effects our doctors are seeing in the hospitals,” said Laurel Dalton, T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society executive director.
Digging deeper into the issue, the society’s doctors still remain unsatisfied with racial disparities in vaccinations numbers. The CDC’s data tracker reports as of Aug. 3, Blacks still trail Whites about six to one being fully vaccinated.
It got WPTV wondering — why is there is still so much apprehension? Surveys collected by the society provided a myriad of responses.
”The vaccine was rushed, they’re concerned about what are the long-term side effects of the vaccine or they heard from someone — some suggestion that it was unsafe so they’re just not sure about it,” Dalton said.
Dr. Brown-Graham said this response could be more detrimental to people of color.
“If you have diabetes or hypertension you are certainly more susceptible to get very ill from COVID. So you are at the highest risk and you should definitely go and get the vaccine,” Dr. Brown-Graham said.
And that’s the motivation behind a health fair on Aug. 7 at the Judge Rogers Community Center Riviera Beach, located at 252 West 11th Street from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. In addition to vaccinations for ages 12 and over, attendees can receive free back-to-school physicals, free vision, dental and breast exams. And testing for diabetes, blood pressure, and HIV. There will also be backpacks and school supplies given for free.
”The reality is what we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr. Brown-Graham said.
Taking an in-depth look at the racial disparity, the CDC’s data tracker reports as of Aug. 3, 9-percent of Blacks and 16-percent of Hispanics are fully vaccinated, compared to 60-percent of whites. To learn more, click here.
The CDC said there are many “social, geographic, political, economic, and environmental factors” that create challenges to both vaccination access and acceptance. One of them being a lack of trust as a result of past medical racism and experimentation. To learn more, click here.