DETROIT – In the weeks following the arrival of the first Kovid-19 vaccines, Rev. Dr. Sarah Bailey is fielding calls from friends and neighbors in Flint.
Callers asked about the side effects of the new vaccines, Bailey said, which runs a faith-based health awareness organization called Bridge into the Future.
He wonders whether messenger RNA – or mRNA – vaccines can alter a person’s DNA, she said.
“They say, ‘Oh, can I catch Kovid?’
Bailey, an elder at the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International of Flint and vice-president of a local network called Community-Based Organization Partners, convinced him. The vaccine will not give them the virus and it will not affect their DNA, she tells them, as all major medical officials have said, based on extensive testing. He walks them through the science behind vaccines.
When he is done, he said, “They are still not sure, but they are less fearful.”
Those who reach Bailey are not people who will take the vaccine simply because the federal government describes them as safe and effective. They live in Flint, still a city dating from 18 months starting in 2014 when public officials insisted that tap water, eventually found to be a dangerously high level, was safe to drink.
Many Flint residents are Black, and have long memories of racist treatment by doctors who have rejected or neglected their medical needs. They may not have physicians who rely on questions about their health.
This is why public health officials in Michigan are turning to trusted community leaders like Bailey to help spread the word about new vaccines.
The Chief Medical Executive of the state Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Jong Khaldun said the plan to vaccinate 70 percent of the state’s residents as soon as possible involves efforts to include people such as block club captains, fraternities and witchcraft presidents and religious leaders. Promoting the vaccine – an effort Khaldun said is particularly important in the Black community, where he is said to be “vaccinated”.
For now, interviews with faith and community leaders in Flint suggest that some, like Bailey, welcome new vaccines, others see similarities with the decision by state and local authorities to uphold the city’s water supply It would be safe to ensure without first having to change. He worries that new vaccines have been taken. The way they still do not drink water, which the local authorities call safe again, they are not yet ready to adopt the new vaccines.
“When you tell us that the water is safe, but it really wasn’t, the relationship between leadership and community is still damaged,” said Todd Womack, pastor of Community Connections at the Central Church of Nazarene in Flint. “It’s just the layers of historical trauma that have presented themselves in our community.”
It’s not just Flint, Khaldun said, citing state surveys that only a quarter of African Americans in Michigan say they are or are likely to be vaccinated, compared to 47 percent of white residents. Even though African Americans are more likely to die or be hospitalized by the virus in Michigan and across the country.
“There is a reason, a fairly valid reason, to worry about how the health care system in general, and often the health care system and the government together, treat the historically African American community in the United States Has done, “said Khaldun, a black woman and a practicing physician who has just received her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNotech vaccine. “Systemic racism still exists. The health care system still has, quite frankly, sometimes clear biases exist, and that’s why I think we need to name it and not embarrass these groups of people Where they might have some hesitation. “
The hesitation is even more pronounced in Flint, where residents have suffered “trauma after trauma after trauma”. “I know there is a lot of mistrust in the government due to the Flint crisis, which was terrible, so I think it’s really going on with the community members, making sure they have access to the information.”
The process of spreading the information is just beginning, but it needs to come from more than one location, said Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist who serves as director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions to the community about the virus. Is discussing, a group of researchers, policy makers and community leaders targeting health disparities.
“They don’t want to hear it from the government, and they don’t want to hear it entirely from the health care sector,” she said. “They want to hear it from many areas and receive many reliable and credible messages that the vaccine is safe and that the vaccine will be beneficial to them.”
For more in-depth reporting of NBC News, download the NBC News app
Furr-Holden, who is also associate dean for public health integration at Michigan State University, helped in an online discussion with Flint faith leaders on December 11 – the day the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine for emergency use was. She told the panel that she has participated in conversations with national public health officials, such as the government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has asked them to help restore African Americans’ faith in the health care system.
“My answer was Hex Nava!” The “well-earned” mistrust of the Black community, she said, refers to the medical establishment.
“As a public health professional, I see a significant need for prevention. I have a significant need for a safe and reliable vaccine to be distributed evenly in our community,” she said.
But at the same time, “relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time,” she said. “They developed a vaccine at warp speed, and they are trying to drop a bunch of processes in the trust and relationship-building process.”
Far-Holden then asked faith leaders on the panel what they would need to encourage people in their communities to vaccinate.
One, Rev. Ezra L., senior pastor of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on the south side of Flint. Tillman Jr. responded that he heard from many people, including politicians, who wanted to reach the black community of Flint through their Black churches. He said that it is a priority to strictly guard the door.
“You don’t let your pulpit become a platform,” he said, adding that he understands “what risk you are taking when you open up these platforms to a community that has been misused, misused has gone.”
Womack, who was also on the panel, responded to Fur-Holden’s question with a knock on elected officials, including former President Barack Obama, who visited Flint in the aftermath of the water crisis and publicly pacified fears of drinking water. Tried.
“You’re not going to catch me drinking a glass of water, saying that the water is safe,” Womack said. “I’m not going for the guy.”
In interviews last week, Tillman and Womack said they are seeing that people across the country have been vaccinated.
Both have personally and painfully felt the devastation that Kovid-19 has brought upon their community. Tillman said he has presided over more than a dozen funerals for family members, friends and the virus-lost parishioner. Womack lost his father last month. But both said they are still not ready to promote the new vaccines.
Tillman said he became more skeptical about vaccines when the national media lambasted Sandra Lindsey, a black New York nurse who was one of the first people in the country to get vaccinated last month. The person who was vaccinated for the photo was also a black woman.
“In this country, we know that African Americans are always targeted as test dummies,” he said, referring to unethical medical experiments, including the infamous Tuskegee study that left hundreds of black men with untreated syphilis for decades gives.
He said there are plans to wait for more data as more people are vaccinated.
He would advise his community, which he knows is at high risk for the virus, to take precautions, such as staying indoors and wearing masks, “instead of volunteering for guinea pigs.”
Womack, who was also an academic advisor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Michigan-Flint, said his experience during the water crisis significantly informed his approach to vaccines.
After going through the crisis and turning the city into a source of clean water, “there was a push for everyone to use water from the city.” “There was a push from local leaders, ‘Hey, we have to trust the city, people have to trust the water, to get ahead of it.” But trust is a relationship. It is not given. “
Water tests show Flint’s water is safe to drink, but Womack and most people know that he still drinks bottled water, he said.
Eventually, Womack said, he would probably come around vaccines.
But for now, he said, “Let’s put some time on that.”
Bailey, who said the community is “emotionally spent” after months of death, is economic despair and social isolation, said she plans to get vaccinated and share photos on every social media channel. One of the organizations she drafted a vaccine newsletter, which she is distributing around Flint.
But he has no plans to tell his friends and neighbors what to do.
“Everyone has to make up their mind,” he said. “It’s going to take people that they trust the community, that they take the vaccine themselves and see that they’re fine, and then they’ll say, ‘Okay, if they took it, and they’re fine,’ Maybe I want to, too. ” ‘