Faith leaders launch campaign to increase vaccination rate among Black residents in metro Detroit

Jul 29, 2021 at 11:44 am
click to enlarge Vaccination site at the Ford Wellness Center in the Samaritan Center in Detroit. - City of Detroit
City of Detroit
Vaccination site at the Ford Wellness Center in the Samaritan Center in Detroit.

As COVID-19 cases make a resurgence, faith leaders from the Council of Baptist Pastors and Vicinity launched a campaign Thursday to encourage Black residents in metro Detroit to get vaccinated.

The #TakeTheShot campaign is aimed at increasing the disproportionately low vaccination rate among Black residents by offering COVID-19 testing and inoculation sites at 50 churches in Detroit and its suburbs. The council is also launching online video messages, partnering with local TV news stations, and reaching out to community groups to spread the message about vaccines.

“What we’ve seen is multigenerational: A grandparent may be hesitant to get vaccinated and that influences everyone’s decision about the shot,” Steve Bland Jr., president of the council, said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, the result is deadly. The persons who are gravely sick and dying are almost [100%] unvaccinated.”

In predominately Black Detroit, only about 40% of the population over age 16 has received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to roughly 65% statewide. Detroit and Hillsdale County have the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

A new study from the University of Michigan found that 80% of unvaccinated Detroit residents said they are worried about the vaccine’s safety and 78% said they were concerned about the side effects. The study also found that Black Detroiters were more than twice as likely as white residents to express concerns about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines.

"With COVID-19 cases rising again in Michigan and public health officials warning about a pandemic among the unvaccinated, these data highlight that trust, and not access, is the main factor deterring Detroiters from getting vaccinated at this stage,” said Elisabeth Gerber, professor of public policy and political science and research associate in the Center for Political Studies at the U-M Institute for Social Research, which conducted the study. “These findings also illustrate that more personal appeals to get vaccinated are more likely to be persuasive than mass appeals through news media.”

click to enlarge Fundings from a recent study on vaccines in Detroit. - University of Michigan
University of Michigan
Fundings from a recent study on vaccines in Detroit.

A vast majority of state residents hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection have not been vaccinated, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The vaccine also has proven to be very successful, with only 1% of vaccinated residents contracting the virus.

Hospitalization rates are increasing, as are the positivity rates.

Few cities in the nation have been hit as hard by COVID-19 as Detroit, where 52,000 people have been infected with the virus, and 2,302 have died.

Skepticism of the medical industry is rooted in history, as medical schools used the bodies of enslaved Black people for anatomy dissections, Black women were sterilized and used for gynecological research, and the U.S. Public Health Service conducted the Tuskegee syphilis study, a secret experiment to analyze how the deadly venereal disease progressed. Hundreds of Black men were recruited between 1932–1972 and never told they had syphilis, depriving them of life-saving treatment.

Bland said churches have been effective at wielding influence in the Black community, and he’s hopeful that the council can alleviate the deep-rooted skepticism.

“It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” Bland said. “Take the shot!”

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