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Race / Ethnicity

Listen MKE: Why Communities Of Color Are More Hesitant To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine

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Screenshot / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Teran Powell (top left) and Talis Shelbourne (top right) hosted a conversation about vaccine hesitancy with Dr. Patricia McManus (bottom left) and Dr. Kevin Izard (bottom right).

WUWM has been partnering with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library on an initiative called Listen MKE. Its goal: help north side residents get the information they want and need.

This Listen MKE conversation focuses on COVID-19 and we're talking about hesitancy toward the COVID-19 vaccine. As distribution continues across the country — including here in Wisconsin — many are anxious to get the shot, but many are not; especially in communities of color.

Hosted by WUWM’s Teran Powell and Talis Shelbourne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Their guests are Dr. Kevin Izard, President of Cream City Medical Society and Patricia McManus, Ph.D. in Urban Studies - Health Systems, President/CEO of Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.

Izard cites historic mistreatment of the Black communities in the medical field as one part of the explanation. Events like, the Tuskegee Syphilis study that took advantage of hundreds of Black men or Johns Hopkins taking cells from Henrietta Lacks in 1951 and not telling her family for two decades, still live in the minds of many Black Americans.

But Izard says it’s not just historic mistreatment but ongoing feeling of disenfranchisement from the health care system.

“The thing I’m more concerned about now is the general feeling that people don’t feel that our medical system, that the institutions are working on their behalf,” he says. “We have a long way to go in assuring that people, that their information is safe, that they have access and that the access that they have is going to be in their best interest.”

McManus points to a recent example of a doctor named Susan Moore who died in December of COVID-19 who alleged that doctors downplayed her complaints of pain. McManus says she has experienced discrimination while in the hospital for a knee replacement and that she had to use her knowledge in the medical field to demand proper treatment.

“I felt if I was treated this way other Black people on the floor probably was still treated and even some of the white ones, they don’t get away with it either, especially if they seem to be poorer or have other issues,” she says.

Izard says when it comes to COVID-19, it is normal to have concerns about vaccine, especially with how new it is. But after learning more about it and weighing the pros and cons, he recommends the vaccine.

“I myself am OK with it, and so I got the vaccine a couple of weeks ago and I got the next one coming up next week. So I myself feel OK with it and I recommend it to my family and my friends, my patients,” he says.

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