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Healthcare leaders in Buffalo's Black communities educate, bust myths related to COVID-19 vaccine

Thomas O'Neil-White

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine reached frontline healthcare workers in Western New York earlier this week. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has state the vaccine will not be available to the general public for many months, so the task of reassuring a skeptical community about the vaccine’s effectiveness falls on the shoulders of people like Pastor George Nicholas.

Speaking during an educational forum on the vaccine, The African American Health Equity Taskforce member said distrust in the medical community is a logical reaction to a history of malpractice.

“African American people don’t mistrust science,” Nicholas said. “We mistrust scientists because of the history of how institutional and systemic and structural racism has played its role in the world of medicine.”

Community Health Center of Buffalo CEO, Dr. LaVonne Ansari said front line healthcare leaders like herself need to be upfront about the danger of the virus and how the vaccine can help.

“So, the way I think we have to address our communities is to be very transparent about A) what vaccines do,” she said. “Also, what Corona, or the COVID virus is.”

Along with the education, Ansari said getting people on board with the vaccine will take a little bit of myth-busting.

“African Americans and Black folks in this country have been trying to survive and live,” she said. ”The notion that we don’t want the vaccine to survive and live is a bad myth. We know how to survive. We want to know how to make a good decision with the knowledge that we have and to make sure we get that information out to our communities.”

Nicholas said it’s an encouraging sign many Black scientists and scholars have been in on the development of the vaccine, but believes distribution of the vaccine needs to come from the smaller, community-based healthcare centers instead of larger medical systems.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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