KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the vaccine rollout continues in both Kansas and Missouri, there’s a nonprofit group called Black Health Care Coalition working to inform Black communities on the facts of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The organization has been around for over 30 years, but it now has a new mission, which is to educate and calm any fears regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Our goal is for African-Americans to take coronavirus serious, to take the vaccine seriously," said Melissa Robinson, president of the Black Health Care Coalition.
It's a task Robinson, who also serves as a KCMO councilwoman, is taking on while the vaccine rollout is underway. She said there's urgency to have correct information to the public regarding the safety of the vaccines.
"We are dying at alarming rates, and the disparity is there as it relates to death," Robinson said.
The group hosts weekly Facebook live chats for those in the community who have questions and invites city, religious and medical leaders to answer those questions.
"We want to encourage Blacks to make sure you get your shot to prevent the devastating effects of this disease," said Dr. Jasper Fullard Jr., who is part of the Black Health Care Coalition.
Fullard Jr. and his wife both received the vaccine shot.
"Had no side effects of any concern at all, probably more like taking a flu shot," Fullard Jr. said.
But he says there’s a lot of trepidation in the community. It partly stems from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study from 1932 to 1972, when the U.S. Public Health Service withheld adequate treatment from a group of poor Black men who had syphilis to try to learn more about the disease.
The hesitation also comes from false information.
"Things like, 'is this virus going to affect our genes, going to change us, are they going to be able to control us if I get the virus?' None of these things are possibles and non of these things will occur," Fullard Jr. said.
"These myths are gaining traction. People are gravitating towards them and we have to mitigate that with an alternative fact-based conversation," Robinson added.
There’s also concern about vaccine distribution. The state of Missouri said it's working to make sure the vaccine will be available to those who want the shot.
"We have to make sure that this vaccine gets out in minority communities because unfortunately, they tend to have poorer outcomes in our community and we also have issues with comorbidities," said Joseph Palm, chief of the Office of Minority Health in the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The Black Health Care Coalition's Facebook page will be hosting another live chat at 9 a.m. Saturday.