Journalists urged to speak the truth on COVID

Submitted photo Dr. Cameron Webb

Blacks lag behind in vaccinations, surge ahead in hospitalizations

Nearly 56% of all Black Minnesotans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, the Minnesota Department of Health has reported. However, the MDH also noted that in the month of August, Black Minnesotans are testing positive for COVID at a greater rate than Whites—12,000 cases per 100,000.

Blacks 65 and older have the highest percentage (91%) of persons receiving full vaccinations in the state, and Blacks 12-18 (29%) and 19-44 (40%) are among the lowest percentage-wise.

The MDH also reported that Blacks are leading in both hospitalizations (12%) and in intensive care units (12%) over other groups due to the coronavirus and now the delta variant. Yet according to health experts, Blacks both locally and nationwide remain among the most reluctant to get vaccinated. 

Politics have “clouded the truth,” said White House Senior Advisor Dr. Cameron Webb at last week’s National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) virtual convention. Webb, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Ian Smith all appeared during the August 19 morning plenary. 

The doctors stressed the fact that being vaccinated is the best way to ward off COVID and urged Black journalists to spread correct information on the virus and the vaccines. 

“Messengers matter,” said Fauci, the U.S. Government’s foremost infectious diseases expert.  “Some of the messages coming out were rooted in confusion.” Yet Fauci said that he fully understands the hesitation by some Blacks to get vaccinated. “You got to respect those reservations…because their questions are absolutely valid from so many standpoints.”

Webb reaffirmed that “local messengers” such as Black journalists are needed to help dispel rumors and spread correct information.

Black doctors and other medical professionals should also be trusted by doubting Blacks, added Dr. Regina Benjamin, who also spoke at the NABJ convention last week. The former U.S. surgeon general and current American Heart Association board member stressed that it’s wrong for Blacks to compare taking the COVID vaccine to the 40-year Tuskegee experiment (1932-1972).

“Technically it was a mistake…not taking the virus more seriously and taking better precautions earlier,” admitted Fauci.

“We’ve dealt with viruses before,” he continued, “but when this was thrust upon us…first we thought it was jumping species and didn’t do very well from human to human. Then we found out that it was very, very highly transmissible and the thing really was different.”

Fauci said he wished he had advised Americans to wear face masks, social distance, and shut things down almost immediately after “we had one documented case. Can you imagine me getting in front of the TV and saying, ‘You got to shut down, everybody’s got to wear a mask.’  They would have thought I was crazy. But retrospectively, it was a mistake not to do that. 

“I’m part of a team of public health people…all who have one goal in mind, to preserve and protect the health of the people of this country, and indirectly the people of the world.”

U.S. health officials last week announced plans for all Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots beginning in September because of rising infections and hospitalizations around the country. Webb told Black journalists last week that a federal mandate currently isn’t being planned, but “we want our folks vaccinated because that’s how we stay safe.”

“This is going to have to be a global response to a global pandemic,” said Fauci. “The best way to counter misinformation and disinformation is to flood the system with correct information. We need the journalists out there essentially speaking the truth.”