Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts have warned that the African-American community is at a heightened risk for infection, prompting the Mississippi State Department of Health to work quickly to inoculate communities of color as the rollout of the vaccine increases.
To date, over 255,000 Mississippians have received at least their first dose of the vaccine—18% of which are African American. While access barriers continue to be addressed, the MSDH is also working to build trust within these communities that, as detailed by then-U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, may be more reluctant to volunteer to get vaccinated.
“Misinformation has been a major issue during this time,” Victor D. Sutton, Ph.D, MPPA, Director of the Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity at the MSDH, said. “We have especially seen this in our communities of color with so many conflicting messages about the virus. It is key and important that we as the Mississippi State Department of Health continue to work to build trust within these communities. The most successful strategy for reaching disproportionately hard-hit Black communities has been to facilitate partnerships with community leaders. This strategy has allowed us to get a better understanding of the pulse of the community as well as identify ways to address their needs. Partnering with faith-based organizations, local Head Start programs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Historically Black Greek Letter Organizations and other partners within the community have increased our ability to communicate and provide programming to the Black community.”
SuperTalk Mississippi’s own Perez Hodge wants to help the MSDH build that bridge to the Black community. In doing so, Hodge rolled up his sleeve Friday morning at Trustmark Park where a Mississippi National Guardswoman administered his first dose.
“I wanted to publicly get this vaccine because I want to send a strong message to my fellow Mississippians. The vaccine is safe and incredibly effective in preventing COVID transmission to others. As you know, Blacks are at higher risk of contracting COVID and becoming seriously ill. Have faith in this well-researched vaccine and please when you qualify, get your vaccine too,” Hodge said.
Shortly after the site opened, the process took less than 45 minutes and with no side effects, Hodge went on his way. He can now schedule his second dose appointment, which will be 21 days from now as he received the Pfizer vaccine. Mild side effects have been reported including some soreness and fatigue for up to a day after vaccination—a sign that the body is developing a proper immune response.
To make your first dose appointment, visit covidvaccine.umc.edu or call the hotline (877-978-6453). Currently, those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Cost will not be a barrier for anyone in Mississippi when it comes to the vaccine as there is no co-pay at the 21 sites run by the MSDH.