Confetti flies in the air as Jeanne Peters, 95, a rehab patient at The Reservoir, a nursing facility, gestures after she was given the first COVID-19 vaccination as Mary Lou Galushko, left, looks on,Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in West Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, Pool) Vaccines begin to roll out.
Confetti flies in the air as Jeanne Peters, 95, a rehab patient at The Reservoir, a nursing facility, gestures after she was given the first COVID-19 vaccination as Mary Lou Galushko, left, looks on,Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in West Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, Pool)

An expert from Wake Forest University shared her thoughts with Cardinal & Pine on people can talk to friends and family about the vaccine. 

While more Americans are saying they will likely take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, many still have real concerns. 

Only 16% of Black Americans and 22% of Hispanics surveyed said they would get a vaccine as soon as it’s available, according to a recent Axios poll. Despite research showing that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Latino Americans, they’re less willing to get vaccinated compared to their white counterparts. 

The history of systematic racism in medicine continues to spurn communities of color and medical professionals and community leaders have tried to bridge the gap as the pandemic rages on. 

Cardinal & Pine spoke to Winston-Salem sociologist Allison Mathews, from The Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine about what’s being done to build trust as the vaccine becomes available in North Carolina. (Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length). 

The Maya Angelou Center also wants to hear from you and is asking community members to submit creative ideas on how to build trust around vaccines) 

Wake Forest University’s Allison Mathews

C&P: What are some of the top concerns about the COVID vaccine in the Black and Latino community?

Alison Mathews:  A lot of people in the Black and Latino communities are concerned that the vaccines have been rushed, and that we don’t have enough information about the efficacy of the vaccines, which I think is a valid concern. But I think the concern is rooted in a lack of information. It’s our part as researchers and scientists to adequately communicate that information.

There’s a misconception that the vaccine research was just pulled out of thin air. But really, this science has been developed over the past 10 years and there have been researchers who have been evaluating coronaviruses for decades. 

This really is a unique moment in time where we’ve been able to pull knowledge from vaccine development and research on coronaviruses. And scientific advances that have emerged from cancer and HIV research, to be able to develop these vaccines in a very quick and efficient way. Also, the efficiency of the vaccine process is being contributed to the fact that there’s so many research participants who have participated in these trials and that does give us a lot of information about the side effects and the safety of the vaccines.

C&P: What’s the best way for those who are planning to get vaccinated to reassure friends and family?

Mathews: I would say there are a lot of educational resources that are being put out by the CDC, the NC Department of Health and Human Services, the COVID Prevention Network, and the Maya Angelou Center. 

There’s probably a town hall discussion happening every day this month regarding the vaccines, to address people’s concerns and answer questions. So just make sure you access the information that’s available and use those tools to have conversations with your family members.

C&P: How have your conversations with the community gone and what has worked in terms of addressing concerns?

Mathews: We have hired eight community health workers who have been trained on vaccines and COVID-19, who go out into the community and disseminate information. We also try to help families get connected to services they need, as well as using social media and town hall discussions to educate people and have conversations about the vaccines. 

We also have quite a few conversations, not only with community members, but with the actual leaders and investigators who are doing the clinical trials. 

I think that’s an important point, we work directly with the clinical investigators to talk about how they can improve the process of transparency, and improve the experiences of people who are participating in the trials, as well as designing protocols that make it more equitable for people in the community to be able to access vaccines.