LANSING, Mich. —
Black Michiganders have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates or any racial or ethnic group tracked by the state.
Health officials have been reaching out to minority communities since the COVID-19 vaccine became available, but distrust of the vaccine persists.
Manik Bhat, CEO of Healthify, a New York organization that works to connect Michigan residents to healthcare opportunities, said, "There's been a host of historical events in the healthcare utilization space that say that, you know, trust with the healthcare system is low."
Michigan.gov shows less than 30% of the state's Black residents have received their first dose. State officials don't know the race of everyone who has been vaccinated but that's still well behind white Michiganders, 42% of whom have gotten at least one shot.
"There's a population of people that are older, that are hesitant because of awareness, they remember during polio and during other past time when we had diseases and viruses that the methods, scientifically of those diseases and viruses that they would have a dead virus that they would inject you with," said Pastor Terrence King of Kingdom Ministries in Lansing.
After noticing the hesitation, King decided to host a virtual conference with his church to get to the bottom of it.
"Those that were there were hesitant because of historical reasons right that Tuskegee experiment, they remember that," he said. Some wondered if this was another experiment.
Many of the millennials in the church said they were simply waiting to see the results from other people, he said.
Lansing resident Undra Brown, falls into the group that's suspicious of the vaccine and what it might do.
"The Tuskegee Airmen experiments, there's just so many experiments of vaccines and things that are supposed to help our people that, in turn, have not," Brown said.
"I feel like it's still in its beginning stages," he added. "It's experimental."
King has been educating his community about the vaccine by handing out informative fliers in different languages, as well as hosting a vaccination site at the church.
"We feel it is part of our responsibility to at least present the information and the data. We want to encourage people to do what is right for their health," he said.
In hopes of encouraging his community, King and his wife got fully vaccinated.
"We had it record it, and we sent that out to others so that they can see their leaders, getting vaccinated. I think that speaks volumes. Because people will adhere to and be more favorable to those who they trust," he said.
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