The Center for Closing the Health Gap is out with the results of a study on the effects of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities. CEO Renee Mahaffey Harris says the key takeaway is that marginalized communities want and need transparency.
"If there's not enough vaccine, let us know there's not enough vaccine. If your systems aren't going to be able to manage the calls that we're making to you, please let us know that there will be a delay - those kinds of pieces of information," explains Mahaffey Harris.
It's also key, the study shows, that Black and Brown communities get information from people they trust within their own communities. She points out decades of racial discrimination - especially in the medical arena - have made people more hesitant about things like the COVID vaccine.
"The gap is closed by Black physicians, Black community leaders, health departments, the Health Gap, and other trusted sources in the Black community ... to get that information and address that hesitancy," she says.
The study found a key distinction between Black and Hispanic/Latino respondents when it comes to being hesitant about getting the vaccine.
"The hesitancy with the Brown community was more about immigration," she explains. "It wasn't about hesitancy necessarily to take the vaccine but more concern on what information you have to provide to get the vaccine."
The Health Gap partnered with Xavier University on the project funded by the CARES Act. The Health Gap has been sponsoring COVID-19 town halls throughout the pandemic to discuss issues and questions, and provide information.
The study also found disparities for Hispanic residents, though not as severe as those for the African American community. Overall, the qualitative and quantitative research produced several key findings:
- African Americans and Hispanics are significantly more likely to have known someone who died from COVID-19 (consistent with local and national data), and therefore believe it is a serious threat to their health.
- The majority of respondents understand how the virus is spread, its risks and prevention basics. Both African Americans and Hispanics perceive their risk to be lower due to the precautions taken.
- While more than half of total survey respondents are extremely likely to get the vaccine when it becomes available, African American respondents are significantly least likely to get the vaccine when available.
- There are concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine safety and how quickly it has been developed. The speed at which it was approved incites hesitation and concerns about the efficacy, side effects, negative reactions and long-term consequences. Many respondents are taking a wait and see approach – waiting a few months (or more) to observe others’ reactions to the vaccine.
- Hispanics are also concerned about accessibility of the vaccine. Many respondents noted the challenge of reaching undocumented residents and the cost.
- The Cincinnati Health Department garners the most trust to deliver COVID-19 vaccine information.
- Even with a survey sample of higher-educated people with higher incomes compared to Hamilton County’s medians, respondents of color experienced greater loss in income during the pandemic.
- Trust of the medical field and vaccine developers is not a factor for Hispanic and Asian populations. Adversely, it is a significant barrier for African Americans. Years of racial discrimination and the experimentation without consent noted above has led to mistrust in the medical and government systems.