CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As thousands of people across the state are signing up to get a COVID-19 vaccine, health professionals at the Medical University of South Carolina are urging communities of color to do the same.
MUSC’s Black and Hispanic/Latino faculty have sent out a release detailing why minority communities in South Carolina and across the nation should take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are able to schedule an appointment.
Data from the state’s department of health and environmental control shows that the virus impacts the Black, Hispanic, and Latino population at disproportioned rates.
Dr. Marvella Ford, a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Associate Director of Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities at MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center, says many people in these communities were already facing health conditions before the pandemic.
“Due to systemic and structural issues like lack of employment or underemployment, lack of health insurance coverage, lack of transportation to get to a health care provider, many people in our communities were already facing long-term chronic health conditions,” Ford said. “When you’re looking at a population that has high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other diseases that puts those communities at more risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and getting more severe outcomes.”
Aside from systematic factors, some issues could be as a result from a history of mistrust and mistreatment minority communities say they have faced when it comes to the health care system.
One of the examples stemming back decades is the Tuskegee study in Alabama where black men with syphilis were left untreated so doctors could study the disease.
Ford says although there are similar experiences throughout history there are better protections in place because of what happened.
“All of these safety measures are in place because of what [the men in the study] have been through, and the best way to honor their legacy is to take advantage of everything we have available to us now including the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
Concerns around immigration status and lack of information in Spanish has also contributed to the distrust in the Hispanic/Latino community.
Lydia Cotton, an activist with Art Pot, says MUSC and other organizations should not only use mainstream platforms to reach out to the community but also utilize grassroots organizations and churches to get through to people.
“My advice to [people who have distrust] is to really look and listen first. Look at the group of professionals that are working hard to make this situation better,” she said. “It’s through education that we’re going to resolve this.”
Dr. Ford says the vaccines have been found to be 95% effective, safe, and have been tested in trials with thousands of people of color. She also says immigration status won’t be a factor in getting the vaccine, because the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.