Ensuring Black Americans Receive COVID-19 vaccines


Robert Gillespie, MD

Before the COVID-19 vaccines became available in the U.S., only 42% of Black Americans said they planned to get one. While that number has since increased locally — close to 50% of Black San Diegans have now received a COVID-19 vaccine — vaccine hesitancy and issues related to access to the vaccine among Blacks remain a concern.

By Robert Gillespie, MD

Black Americans are more likely to become severely ill or die due to complications of COVID-19 than other populations. In 2020, Blacks in the U.S. lost nearly three years of life expectancy as a result of the pandemic. And Black Americans are nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has again exposed that health care delivery in our communities is inadequate, setting the stage for inequitable outcomes. With COVID-19 case numbers rising, my Joint Initiatives for Racial Equity in Health (JIREH) colleagues and I are focused on addressing issues related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and access.

We understand that there are several factors that create challenges to COVID-19 vaccination among Black Americans and other people of color. These include gaps in health care access, lack of trust because of past and current medical racism, and pervasive misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. However, it is important to understand that the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, illness, hospitalization and death.

As trusted messengers, we are compelled to share clear and accurate information about COVID-19 and to remove barriers to vaccine access. We encourage San Diegans to join us at our community vaccination event on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Bethel AME Church of San Diego, located at 3085 K Street.

Vaccinations for people age 5 and older, as well as booster shots for eligible people, will be available. Appointments can be scheduled at MyTurn.ca.gov. Flu shots will also be available and can be received at the same time as COVID-19 vaccination.

We aim to serve high-risk populations in receiving first-time vaccinations and boosters. The protection that the vaccines deliver is more crucial now than ever with the continued spread of the coronavirus, and as we begin to understand the impact of the new omicron variant in several countries, including the U.S.

Visit sharp.com/COVID19vaccine to learn about COVID-19 vaccines, schedule vaccination through MyTurn, and find resources to replace a lost vaccination card.

Dr. Robert Gillespie is a cardiologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and chief medical officer of the Joint Initiatives for Racial Equity in Health (JIREH).

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