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Doctor says vaccine hesitancy in minority communities continues to grow

Posted at 7:23 AM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 07:23:31-05

FORT MYERS, Fla -- Vaccine hesitancy exists in all communities, but medical experts say it's growing among minorities who are also dying of the virus at a higher rate.

Dr. Kevin Stephens, Chief Medical Officer for UnitedHealthcare’s Mid-South region, is working to help stop that distrust.

He said numbers show minorities are significantly less likely to get the shot. He explained that illnesses like obesity, hypertension and diabetes are more prevalent in minority communities, contributing to a higher risk of COVID-19 death and severe illness and underscoring the importance of the vaccine.

This latest chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the risk for infection, hospitalization and COVID-19 death based on race and ethnicity.

Dr. Stephens said UnitedHealthcare is working to educate people on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines.

"The main thing here is that in the brown and black skin people, we have pretty much double the mortality rate from COVID-19. And if you look at the vaccination rates, it's about half. So we have half the vaccinations and then double the mortality," he explained.

He said vaccine hesitancy within these communities isn't surprising when you look at history. He used data on flu vaccines in Florida to explain.

"If you look at the flu vaccinations, you see the African American community we have about 30% prevalence of getting vaccinated for the Influenza flu, as opposed to 46% for the Caucasian community, and that's a big difference. So when you translate that to the COVID-19, we are dismal. We still are way behind in terms of the percentage of the population who will be getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Stephens.

He hopes UnitedHealthcare’s new online tool will make a difference. It's a vaccine resource locator that's available in English and Spanish. It's free to anyone. You can just type in your zip code and the online tool finds FDA-authorized vaccine resources nearby.