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St. Louis experts explain why minority groups may be hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccines

"We need them to know that vaccines play a critical role in public health," Dr. Echols said

ST. LOUIS — With vaccines rolling out, this could be a way to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there may be some hesitancy in getting the shots.

Fourteen percent of Black people trust the vaccine will be safe and 18% believe it will be effective. In the LatinX communities, 34% trust its safety.

This is according to a recent study from Langer Research.

Local experts say it's deep rooted in history with experimentation on communities of color nationwide.

Dr. Joyce Balls-Berry is an Associate Professor of Neurology with Washington University and she's also Lead of the Knight ADRC Health Disparities and Equity Core.

She gives examples of these types of experimentation like the Tuskegee experiment. 

Other examples also hit home.

"Even in St. Louis with Cold War experiments with poor Black and white communities... they didn't take in consideration if families wanted to participate in these studies," she said.

Keon Gilbert is an Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at SLU and also the Co-Director of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity

He added why some may be skeptical.

"In St. Louis, it was the closing of Homer G. Phillips Hospitals and also the mistreatment that many Black residents experienced in the hospitals here."

Due to that history, change is needed. Information needs to be planted through education.

"Communities need to be really engaged in meaningful ways," Gilbert said.

Dr. Balls-Berry agreed and added, "I think it's really important to be honest and transparent."

The survey even found transparency seems to be key in building trust for minority communities. 

It shows effective messaging should be open, honest, and comprehensive.

Dr. Frederick Echols, Acting Director of the St. Louis Health Department said future events are going to be held. Through that, knowledge will be handed out.

He said the ball is already rolling in that education piece. The department even held an event to help the community understand the vaccine trials. 

"We have ongoing efforts to educate communities. We need to make sure they can make informed decisions on their health. We need them to know that vaccines play a critical role in public health. We want to empower them with knowledge," Dr. Echols said.

In order for us to get on the other side of this, Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Shephali Wulff said we all need to get there somehow.

Vaccines can be the tool that takes us there.

"We very very much want people to accept the vaccine, so we can get close for life to look a bit normal," Dr. Wulff said. "I will be ready to roll up my sleeve as soon as it’s my turn."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said we could get herd immunity by late spring or early summer, but it depends on whether people get the shots.


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