White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, NNPA Discuss Vaccine Efforts

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, left, and Dr. Cameron Webb, right, are members of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

Screenshot provided by the Black Press NNPA


How many people of color have been vaccinated? Will herd immunity ever come? What is the role of the Black Press during the pandemic?

On Wednesday, May 5, these questions were answered and more as interviews with Dr. Cameron Webb and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, critical members of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, shared the medical advice on the race to vaccinate amidst the pandemic.

Webb and Nunez-Smith discussed their thoughts on Facebook live, which the National Newspaper Publisher Association’s (NNPA) president and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and senior national correspondent, Stacy Brown hosted.

The roughly 45-minute interview covered a wide range of topics, like dispelling fears and incorrect data and vaccine hesitancy among the Black community. This virtual event also covered how the NNPA’s platform could be used to help increase the media distribution of critical and vital information from The White House, HHS, and the CDC surrounding the pandemic to Black America.

NNPA Sr. National Correspondent Stacy Brown said that we know the President Joe Biden-Vice President Kamala Harris administration has worked “feverishly” to get people vaccinated.

“Do we know how many people of color … have been vaccinated to this point?” Brown asked.

Webb said that there is an idea based on percentages. Less than 9% of Black people have been vaccinated nationwide; about 12% of Hispanic have been vaccinated.

“Those numbers continue to improve,” Webb said adding that a lot of progress has been made.

Also, there is some missing data with 40% of shots in the arms of people whose ethnicity was not revealed. Despite that, some of that information can be found by looking up zip codes in concentrated communities of color and elsewhere.

“Short answer is we still have work to do,” Webb said.

The Biden-Harris administration also announced that there is a new goal to have herd immunity of the population (with 70% vaccinated) by July 4.

Brown asked how the NNPA as the trusted voice of the community assists the White House with reaching that goal.

Nunez-Smith said the “very ambitious goal” means getting most of the population inoculated as quickly as possible.

“What I always try to stress to folks we have a country as a goal (that needs) to be a community goal,” she said, adding that it is important to connect with one’s social network and talk about getting vaccinated at a basic level.

Also, the Black press can continue to write positive stories on the vaccination process.

“The key is to see folks they know getting vaccinated and lifting up those stories of Black folks in the Black press,” she said. “What was their vaccination journey? Having them talk openly and honestly … it is such a powerful vehicle combating the disinformation.”

Webb said that he can go to the barbershop, among other community places, and immediately hear disinformation on vaccines and the Black press can powerfully change that narrative.

“Tell the story of grandmothers able to spend time with grandchildren again … getting back to normalcy,” he said, adding that is going to motivate folks to get back to normal sooner. “These vaccines are a key path to that …uncertainty.”

Karen Carter Richards, Forward Times CEO/publisher, said during the interview that Webb inspired her to help write those stories and “get another perspective” of how to go about doing that during the pandemic.

Brown added that after receiving the vaccine many people experienced sore arms and people want to know if they can take aspirin for the pain?

Webb said that he receives a lot of these questions and, essentially, if people need to relieve their pain feel free to take something for it like Tylenol.

“These vaccines were designed to have a good response,” he said. “There is going to be some discomfort at the site of the injection (up to 24-36 hours later). A feeling tired throughout the day with joint aches, headaches.”

He added that severe allergy reactions are what medical experts lookout for to treat.

Webb also discussed the likelihood of needing booster shots, which he said might be a possibility.

“Some of the factors that go into that is how many folks are getting vaccinated now,” he said, adding that the more COVID-19 cases and variants at play, the more likely it is that a booster shot will be needed. “(It) depends on how much people get vaccinated — 70% doesn’t mean herd immunity … herd immunity is when enough people get vaccinated and the virus has nowhere to go … we will know it when we don’t see cases anymore …a lot of it has to do with decision we make today.”

To watch the rebroadcast visit here: https://youtu.be/8BWAoGl14pk.


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