Vaccine Central

Working to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitation in Central Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hesitation about getting COVID-19 vaccinations is still a deep concern inside Indiana’s minority communities, particularly with Black and Brown Hoosiers.

In the Black community, the barbershop is a gathering spot. Some people refer to it as a men’s country club. Men come to the barbershop not only to get their hair cut but also to connect and talk about real issues. During this pandemic, the topic of getting the vaccine has come up often.

Inside one of the Kenny’s Academy of Barbering locations, News 8 caught up with Jamal Strickland. He’s not too sure about the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’m on the edge of it. I’m not sure if I really want to go and get the vaccine or if I should get just in case, if I even catch COVID again or be around somebody or be around somebody who has COVID.”

He’s not alone. The hesitation to get the COVID-19 vaccine is very real in minority communities. Shandy Dearth, the director of the undergraduate program in epidemiology at Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, said Friday, “We see a lot of vaccine hesitancy among people of color here in the U.S., mainly because of the bad history that we’ve had in the U.S.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service ran a study of the untreated effects of syphilis in Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama. They ran the study on more than 300 people without notifying the participants about their disease. Researchers told the men they were being treated for bad blood, but they really did not receive the proper treatment to cure their illness.

“So, we see that play out in some of the hesitancy. I know the Kaiser Foundation had done a report recently about vaccine hesitancy, and a lot of Blacks and African-Americans said they are hesitant toward taking the vaccine. They want to take that wait-and-see approach even though the mortality rates are so much higher among Blacks and Hispanics,” Dearth said.

All of this hits very close to home for Kenny’s Academy of Barbering owner Gregory Kenny. He lost his two brothers to COVID-19. They died a month apart from each other.

“The message I want to send is get the shot. Get the shot. It could save your life. It could save the life of your family, your friends and your community. Get the shot. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin. This is about health and life or death,” Kenny said.

Alisha Jessup leads outreach teams that get information out to the communities about the vaccine and get them scheduled for the shot.

According to Jessup, the CDC offers the following documents to ease concerns:

“The handouts on side effects are given to patients after they have received the vaccine at our site,” Jessup said. “A lot of those questions are centered around what are the side effects? What has been reported? Then two, the community health workers, what they have said a lot of patients are still uneasy about them, but they’ll then tell them, ‘you know, I received the vaccine’. They like to hear personal stories of some of the clinical staff, if they’ve received it, and sometimes, that makes them feel better and they actually go on to schedule their appointment.”

Back at the barbershop, Strickland said he’s open to changing his mind. “I can always change my mind at any time. Right now, I might say no, I’m not going to get it, but later on, I might start thinking more into it and actually make that choice and go and get it.”

Anyone 16 and older can make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment on Indiana’s website.