The Detroit News

Vaccine hesitancy a bad omen

- BANKOLE THOMPSON

Michigan has the highest number of coronaviru­s cases in the nation, a worrying distinctio­n given the toll that the virus has already taken on the state and cities like Detroit.

Detroit cannot afford to relive another painful chapter of the deaths it witnessed during the first wave of the pandemic. Yet

Wayne County is seeing an increase in cases.

Vaccine hesitancy in the

Black community stemming from the history of racism and abuse in the medical system remains an issue. The conversati­on about the need to get vaccinated is often a Pandora’s box on medical racism.

On my radio show, I hear from callers who are still very skeptical about the vaccines.

A recent report that Detroit’s vaccinatio­n rate is lagging behind other regions raises questions about what the administra­tion of Mayor Mike Duggan is doing to tackle the problem right away.

“Getting more people vaccinated is at the heart of addressing COVID-19, particular­ly this most recent surge,” said Detroit’s Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. “As you know, Detroit is running perhaps the most efficient and effective vaccinatio­n site in the county, where any eligible Detroiter can call a single phone number and get vaccinated within a couple of days.”

“In addition to the vaccinatio­ns taking place at TCF, the Health Department also has administer­ed about 50,000 doses to Detroiters across more than 180 neighborho­od-based locations in the city,” Fair continued. “We’ve found that many people are much more receptive to this neighborho­od-based approach and we will be significan­tly expanding on that strategy in the coming days and weeks.”

Fair’s sense of optimism doesn’t reconcile with reality as Detroit is trailing behind other southeast Michigan counties’ vaccinatio­n rates. That means the Duggan administra­tion needs to go back to the drawing board and find the most effective way to curtail the pandemic in the city.

“After tedious research I am now fully vaccinated,” said Sam Riddle, a Detroit political analyst. “Given my age of 74 coupled with being a congestive heart failure survivor on my second pacemaker defibrilla­tor, the two shots of the Moderna vaccinatio­n were an easy decision for me.”

For Riddle, the city’s low vaccinatio­n rate points to a trust issue with the administra­tion.

“Lack of trust represents a major disconnect between majority Black Detroiters and the Duggan administra­tion,” Riddle said.

The Rev. Aaron McCarthy, the president of the Detroit chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organizati­on co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said he is fully vaccinated, but he is concerned that vaccine hesitancy could spell trouble for Detroit.

“I have been vaccinated and I have had no side effects,” McCarthy said. “The problem is we are not all on the same page in trying to protect ourselves against the virus. I do believe that everyone in the city should be vaccinated. We as Black people are the hardest hit on everything because we are the most unprotecte­d.”

McCarthy added: “If we don’t get this vaccinatio­n together it could be a disaster for our community. We need a strong advocacy for this vaccinatio­n drive. A lot of people don’t trust it because of the Tuskegee experiment, and that’s been so long ago.”

The resurgence of the virus tells us more work must be done. If not, the coming summer won’t be good for the city. bankole@bankoletho­mpson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDet­News

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which

broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.

 ?? Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images ?? Vaccine hesitancy in the Black community stems from the history of racism and abuse, Thompson writes.
Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images Vaccine hesitancy in the Black community stems from the history of racism and abuse, Thompson writes.
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