American Heart Association Forum Promotes COVID-19 Vaccinations

The American Heart Association hosted a virtual forum focused on COVID-19 vaccine reluctance. He discussed ways to communicate factual information to communities of color in the Houston area.

The “Taking the Issues to Heart” event on Thursday March 25 hosted a panel of local experts.

“It has been published in almost every media outlet that the COVID-19 vaccine is the key to reopening the economy,” said Lharissa Jacobs, AHA’s vice president of health strategies. “Building public confidence in the vaccine is essential to increase equitable immunization coverage. “

Jacobs said health and wellness is at the forefront of the American Heart Association’s work and that individuals are risking their health by not getting vaccinated. She said vaccines have historically proven to be the safest and most effective way to fight infectious diseases.

“Everyone should be vaccinated because even a single infection can cause an epidemic, and everyone deserves to be protected,” Jacobs said, adding that injections are especially important for people who are elderly or have risk factors such as cardiovascular problems or obesity.

She said blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans and those in rural areas are hit hardest by the pandemic as they are more likely to have underlying health issues. In addition, they tend not to have access to health care and to work in more essential jobs, where it is more difficult to socially distance themselves from others.

Gwen Sims, Deputy Director and Interim Executive Director of Harris County Public Health, explained that many people in the black community do not trust vaccines due to past wrongs like the Tuskegee experience. Black men were subjected to a syphilis study from 1932 to 1972, but were denied treatment when it became available. Sims also spoke of a historical perception that black people have a higher tolerance for pain. This has led some providers to perform procedures on them without anesthesia or pain medication.

Today, lack of access to health care and socio-economic factors such as education, housing, food and unemployment contribute to mistrust of vaccines, Sims said. She stressed that mistrust and the reasons behind it need to be recognized to find support for vaccines in black communities.

While the pandemic was not Harris County Public Health’s first public health emergency response, it was the longest. HCPH has started its resilience and equity branch. He guided decisions, including case investigation, contact tracing, testing and vaccinations.

Sims said wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing are still important, but urged Texans 16 and older to sign up for the shot anywhere they can find one.

The biggest vaccine concern Dr. Shital Patel, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, hears from his patients is safety. How safe are vaccines and how can they be developed so quickly and still be safe?

“So what people need to understand – and we need to send the right messages is that these rigorous clinical trials were done with all the safety precautions we take in any trial before anything is approved in the industry. American population or the world, ”Patel mentioned.

She said the development of COVID-19 vaccines had received a lot of funding and support and that the health community already knew a lot about SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, because there was an outbreak. related SARS-CoV-1 in the early 2000s. She added that the processes that would typically occur in sequence were occurring next to each other, due to the pressure to prepare the vaccines.

According to Patel, about 20 to 30 percent of people vaccinated have mild symptoms like fever, body aches or fatigue for one to two days. But they’re very similar to what patients might feel after flu or shingles vaccines, with no long-term side effects, she said.

Patel said providers should focus on discussing vaccine issues with their patients. Conversely, she encouraged people to talk about their apprehensions with a health care provider or with friends or family who have already received a vaccine..

Laura Murillo, chief executive officer of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber had worked with the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs to study the economic effects of the pandemic in Houston. She said Hispanics make up about $ 42 billion of Houston’s economy and have a young population. Murillo said many work in frontline jobs and live in multigenerational homes, contributing to more COVID-19 cases and higher hospitalization and death rates.

People of color, Murillo explained, have been hit more deeply by unemployment than their white counterparts during the pandemic. She said the chamber sees the vaccine as essential to reopening economies. She wants employers to encourage their workers to register, give them time off to get vaccinated, and offer wage incentives where possible.

Daisy Morales, vice president of Community Health Choice, works with largely underserved Hispanic populations. She said fewer people get vaccinated because they work by the hour and can’t afford to wait long stretches at a computer to find an appointment or spend hours online at a site vaccination. Transportation and childcare have also been obstacles, she said.

Morales explained that there was not enough immunization education material translated into other languages ​​at the start of the pandemic, so health organizations are struggling to catch up. Without reliable communications, she said disinformation has spread.

Murillo urged Texans to get vaccinated and tell people in their communities to do the same.

“Let’s do all we can, starting with your family and your neighbors,” Murillo said.

COVID-19 information is available at Residents of Harris County can register for a vaccine at or by calling 832-927-8787.

Ida M. Morgan

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