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Bloomington Church To Address Vaccine Hesitancy in Virtual Forum

COVID vaccines on table
Tim Shelley
Black people are among the population sectors that have shown higher skepticism about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Black leaders are working to build trust within a community that has shown skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomington has scheduled a virtual town hall at 5 p.m. Sunday to address concerns people may have about the vaccine.

Chicago-area immunologist James A. Thompson will lead the discussion and answer questions during the public event.

Rev. Brigitte Black
Credit courtesy
Rev. Brigitte Black

The Rev. Brigitte Black of Wayman AME said the Black community may be more willing to listen to someone who looks like them, given the history of medical racism in the United States.

“There is a certain level of trust there,” Black said. “We also understand that person would understand our skepticism, our hesitancy.”

Black said people in her mostly African American congregation not only have concerns about historical racism when it comes to vaccine testing and distribution, but they have other concerns, too, such as how fast the vaccine was produced and how those who have underlying health conditions might respond to the vaccine.

“Many African Americans have comorbidity symptoms already, so (they) just want to make sure is the vaccine safe,” Black said.

Health administrators have been working to reduce vaccine hesitation in the midst of record-fast vaccine development, in hopes of reaching herd immunity and hastening the return to a normal lifestyle.

Surveys have shown Black people to be among the most hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, but they are not alone.

According to the health policy nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, 35% of Black adults said they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine. However, Republicans were the most unlikely to get the vaccine (42%) and rural residents were just as skeptical as Blacks (35%). There also are skeptics among health care workerswho have been among a select few eligible to receive the vaccine in the early stages of distribution. 

Black said the town hall will be part of an “ongoing conversation” about COVID-19 and its impacts on the Black community.

“The twin pandemics, COVID-19 and COVID 1619, the collision of those two pandemics have created a mental health disaster in our community,” said Black, referring to the origins of racism in the U.S. “Grief is rampant and we must address these issues.”

The town hall is sponsored by Wayman AME, the African-American Ministerial Alliance of Bloomington-Normal, the Bloomington-Normal NAACP and other church organizations.

The McLean County Health Department also plans to host a virtual town hall in February to address vaccine hesitation in the Black and Latinx communities.

Registration for the Zoom webinar is available here

Editor's note: WGLT updated this story to provide the Zoom registration link.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.