Safe and Sound: SWGA Black physicians concerned about racial disparities in vaccination participation

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 11:39 AM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - There’s a push to get more African-Americans vaccinated across Southwest Georgia.

Dr. Derek Heard
Dr. Derek Heard(Phoebe)

Dr. Derek Heard with Phoebe said only around 5,000 Black people in Albany have received the vaccine.

African-Americans make up almost 75 percent of the roughly 74,000 people who live in Albany.

Heard said he knows there’s some hesitancy from past medical experimentation like the Tuskegee Experiment. Heard said he understands the fear but added things have changed.

The vaccine, Heard pointed out, has been tested and deemed safe.

A black man included in a syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala
A black man included in a syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala(National Archives via AP)

“The disease is still here and it is still rampant. We lost too many neighbors. I lost too many friends I grew up with that I’ve known my entire life. That COVID is the same COVID that is still here. We don’t want to add you to that number. The best way to do that is for you to get vaccinated,” Heard said.

Heard said this is also one of the most at-risk populations for COVID-19.

If this continues, Heard pointed out, we won’t reach herd immunity.

Dr. John Vance with Albany Area Primary Healthcare shares this concern, adding that vaccinations are the only way to get back to a sense of normalcy.

Dr. John Vance, President of Phoebe Medical Staff
Dr. John Vance, President of Phoebe Medical Staff

”I hear that a lot from my patients that they are gonna wait and see what happens. Don’t wait and see. If you wait and see, it could be too late. Currently, we have vaccine shortages in the state. You could decide you want it and show end up and they could be out of the vaccine. Or you could wait and end up getting COVID and suffering the consequences,” Vance said.

Both doctors got both doses of the vaccine. And while you may experience symptoms, most are mild. They say they will continue to work with organizations and schools like Albany State Univeristy to continue to educate the community on the importance of the vaccine.

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