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IU Vice President Emeritus on COVID-19 vaccinations: 'The hesitancy is real'

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 09:19:35-04

BLOOMINGTON — Indiana University Emeritus Vice President Dr. Charlie Nelms said he's pleased with several efforts to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but more of those efforts are needed.

Nelms, who lost several family members and friends to COVID-19 said he's encouraged by the people who are getting vaccinated and hopeful more people will be encouraged by others to do the same thing.

In January, Nelms wrote in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education about why he was going to get vaccinated and why others should as well.

"I wanted to use my platform to make that pledge and commitment to encourage people to get vaccinated," Nelms said. "And of course, an opportunity to join forces with President Michael McRobbie, and we publicly got vaccinated together as a show of our confidence and to encourage other people to do the same."

He said he thinks it's important for people to hear from people like himself when deciding if they should get vaccinated.

"As a Black man who has held numerous leadership positions all across the country, I do have a significant number of people whom I have a relationship and I think people need to hear from people like me about the importance of getting vaccinated," he said. "And I felt I needed to demonstrate that personally as opposed to talking about a theoretical concept."

The history of vaccines and healthcare for people, especially Black Americans, is real, Nelms said.

"History is very important. We can learn a lot from history," he said. "I think it was Malcolm X who said, at of all of our lessons history, history is best suited to reward our efforts. And so the history is real, we can’t change that. But what we can do is to learn from it. And so I acknowledge the history, but I say to people you can’t get so caught up in the history that you don’t do what you need to do in a contemporary kind of sense."

Nelms said he doesn't see anything necessarily wrong with the current efforts to educate and encourage people to get vaccinated but thinks we need more of these efforts and to recognize one size doesn't fit all.

"The hesitancy is real," Nelms said. "So what we need to do I think, and this is what I see happening throughout Indiana and around the nation, they use multiple approaches. Taking leaders, whether they're ministers, our physicians and healthcare workers, trusted individuals and have them become part of the message. And one of the things I really appreciate about the fact that is young people are being used in the messaging as well."

By diversifying the messengers and having more people talk about the vaccine, Nelms said it could help people find someone they are able to relate to.

"I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing, we just need to do more of what it is we are doing," he said. "Diversify the messengers. The message is the same but diversify the messengers."

Younger people are also able to appeal to people by posting to social media, he said.

"It’s a way of authenticating the significance of being vaccinated," he said. "And I think that’s the most important thing we can get by having as I said earlier, different ethnic groups, different age groups, different professions, so on and so forth."

In the last few months, Nelms said he is pleased with the efforts to spread out COVID-19 vaccination sites and clinics to help make the vaccine more accessible for people, but acknowledges there are still issues for some people.

"It continues to be a problem especially for people who may not live on a bus route or people who live in rural areas and may not have an automobile," he said. "But I’m pleased with what I’m seeing across the country that I hear about on the news or read about and that kind of thing. So I’m encouraged."

He's encouraging anyone who is still considering if they should get the vaccine to talk with someone who has been vaccinated.

"First thing I recommend to people is not to believe everything they read," Nelms said. "Just because they see it on social media, don’t automatically assume it’s true. I would say talk to your minister, talk to your physician, talk with your neighbors who have been vaccinated. You know this not exactly rocket science here. This is very much an emotional kind of thing. The hesitancy is around an emotional set of factors. So we need to acknowledge it but I would say have conversations with people. Share your hesitancy and let them know."

You can watch WRTV's full interview with Nelms in the player above.