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State leaders working to increasing vaccine access and trust for minority populations

Several minority groups hesitant to get vaccine
vaccine skepticism
Posted at 8:07 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:07:47-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s health leaders say they want to work with community groups to make sure minorities not only have access to the COVID-19 vaccine but feel comfortable getting it as well.

The Indiana State Department of Health has partnered with the Indiana Minority Health Coalition to learn more about what is preventing some from getting the vaccine and find out the best ways to help community members learn more about it.

“People are very concerned about safety. They're very concerned about whether this is good for them and there is just a degree of we don't necessarily trust this,” said Carl Ellison, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Inc. president and CEO.

“A lot of African Americans, you know we still are familiar with some of the studies that were done in the past particularly that the Tuskegee experiment, so there's always going to be a level of skepticism," said TyJuan Garrett, Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch vice president. "In addition to how fast this vaccine was created, so there's a lot of questions.”

Leaders with the Indiana Minority Health Coalition say they are looking for “trusted voices” to help spread information about the COVID-19 vaccine and vouch for it. They said this is a very community-based approach, so they are trying to find people in each city or region to help. This could be anyone from a trusted minority physician to a popular radio DJ.

“As we engage them, we can get video of them getting their vaccination, we can get testimonials from them,” said Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Leaders recognize that is just a small piece of the puzzle though, and they’re working to find more ways to connect with the minority populations or hesitant community members.

Some say they think it will just take time, and think people need to hear not only from local leaders or “trusted voices,” but their peers as well.

“If someone were to say 'Hey I know that person, they took the vaccine and they seem ok,' the more likelihood they are to get it,” Garrett said.

“There is no more important public health matter than this," Ellison said. "People are dying and they are disproportionately dying when they are people of color."

According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s website, as of Thursday only 4% of COVID-19 vaccinations have gone to African American Hoosiers, who make up almost 10% of the state’s population.