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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Michigan leaders hosting virtual town hall to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations in minority communities

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 18:51:04-05

LANSING, Mich. — As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across the country, some communities of color are hesitant to get it.

Combatting those fears is the work of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in April.

“Our community had disproportionately higher numbers of infection and deaths, so what the governor wanted to do was really get ahead of that,” said Randolph Rasch, the dean of Michigan State University’s College of Nursing.

Rasch and the other members of the task force are hoping to dispel any myths about the vaccine that might be spreading. To get accurate information to communities of color, the group is meeting people where they are: churches, beauty salons and even barber shops.

“With the vaccine, I think that us in the Black community are a little leery,” said Mo-Cuts barber shop owner Michael Ogden. “We want to know what it’s going to do first.”

Mistrust in medicine has a long history in the Black community. Past abuses by the medical establishment, such as the Tuskegee Experiment, which purposefully left Black men in Alabama untreated for syphilis, and the case of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used for science without her consent after her death, have left many generations of Black people fearful of the immunization.

The task force hopes its outreach will help nudge people to accept the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re launching a series of town halls...to help answer the questions that the community has at large as it relates to their hesitancy or apprehension to get the vaccine,” said Dion Williams, the director of faith based and urban affairs for Whitmer.

The first virtual town hall will stream on Facebook Live Thursday at 4 PM. To watch, join here: https://www.facebook.com/michiganhhs/live

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