vaccine mistrust

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When UofL Health nurse Lashawn Scott became the second person in Kentucky to get the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, she did it with others in mind.

"(It's) one way I get to encourage other African Americans to get vaccinated and prove that this vaccine is safe," said Scott, who got immunized Monday morning.

It's a message Dr. Steven Patton said is important as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

"We have to acknowledge that there will be hesitancy in the community," said Patton, a family medicine doctor with Norton Community Medical Associates.

Patton, who is Black, points to the history of medical mistreatment of Black Americans, like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in the 1930s, when Black men were deceived, and treatment was withheld.

"That's old enough that my grandparents still remember that," Patton said.

Communities of color are disproportionately getting sick and dying from COVID-19, but surveys suggest they're more hesitant to get vaccinated than other groups in the U.S. Recent numbers from Pew Research show 60% of all Americans plan to get the shot, while only 42% of African Americans plan to.

"It's kind of like between a rock and a hard place," Patton said. "Like we're dying more of this, but they're also scared to trust the hand that's trying to help."

He believes shifting those numbers comes down to a consistent message.

"It's more of providing an understanding of how the vaccine is made," he said. "What are the side effects? Who is going to get it?"

Patton has reached out to leaders in his community and appeared on different podcasts to spread the word as well as had conversations at his own practice.

"When I have these conversations, I tell them I'm not trying to convince you to take it or not to take it. I just want you to be fully informed in the decision you're making," he said. "And normally, they say, 'Are you going to get the vaccine?' And I say 'Yes! I'm going to get the vaccine, but here's why.'"

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