United Voice: Health Care Leaders Work To Give The African American Community Accurate Information


Tuesday, February 2nd 2021, 5:07 pm
By: Ashley Holden


The Oklahoma City-County Health Department and other health organizations are working to diminish vaccine hesitancy in the African American community. Together, they are trying to find ways to reach the community with essential information.

"This is something that continues to ring in their ears of 'I'm not ready,' 'I don't know much about this,' and 'I'm not going to be a guinea pig,'" said Dr. Pamela Allen with OU Health. 

Those were all reasons Allen has heard from patient and even friends for not wanting to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Allen wears a lot of hats in the community including associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Dermatology at OU Health. She also serves as the chair for the OU College of Medicine Diversity Alliance Task Force. 

She and Eddie Withers, a supervising epidemiologist for OCCHD, are working to educate members of the African American community. Withers said this includes even his own family. 

"The bottom line is trust," said Withers. 

The pair said the lack of trust in the community coupled with concerns from mistreatment, less access to health care and the speed at which the vaccine came out created the perfect storm. 

In order to get accurate vaccine information to the community, the pair, along with other providers and the county, are turning to churches and pastors.

"A lot times, that's where people of color, that's where we congregate," said Withers. "That's where we go a lot of times for information for our support."

The pair were both recently apart of a live virtual town hall with the Voice of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Allen said it was important when planning the event to make sure the experts involved looked like the audience they were speaking to. 

"We needed to be present and show there are minorities in the health care field that are experts, that are giving this information to the community," said Allen. 

The pair both agreed this can't be one and done. The conversation has to continue. That's why multiple organizations are working with the state and OCCHD to plan more town halls over the next few months. 

Withers said the county is hoping to use this method along with other new outreach methods like working with sororities and fraternities.

"We need to go to the people," said Allen. "We need to go to the communities."

Allen thinks they can help build back trust, but right now her main message is get the vaccine.

"In the past, people of color were forced to sit at the back of the bus," said Allen. "This is not a time for us to personally put ourselves at the back of the bus."

Click here to watch the full town hall video.

This is the second part in series about Oklahoma City's minority communities and getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Click here to view the first part of this series.

News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.