The Conversation: Between Us, About Us

Despite having one of the highest mortality rates from COVID-19 in the US (twice as high as White Americans), Black Americans are among those least likely to get vaccines (look at the 2nd and 3rd pictures in this post). Why is that? Let’s listen to experts on it.

Between Us, About Us is one of the best coalitions and groups I have seen! From the website: “Between Us, About Us kicks off with an open and honest conversation between W. Kamau Bell and Black doctors, scientists, nurses and researchers that gets to the heart of Black people’s questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.” There has been a major misconception floating around that vaccine hesitancy is the highest among BIPOC communities. That’s actually not true at all! – and can contribute to blame-shifting (even if it’s unconscious, it’s still wrong). I’ll share that data in another post (it’s actually white conservatives that are the most hesitant – but, that’s for another post). So, what are the main barriers?

Let’s hear from one of the biggest experts in the field, Dr. Rhea Boyd (4th picture in this post)

✅“There are two major barriers to Black folks receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. NEITHER one of them are vaccine hesitancy. The barriers are accessible facts about the COVID-19 vaccines and convenient access to receive a vaccine,” said Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and public health advocate, who co-developed the project with KFF and the Black Coalition Against COVID. “This is a comprehensive effort on behalf of Black health care workers across the country, to ensure every Black person in the United States has the credible information they need to make this critical choice. It is time for us to have a conversation, between us and about us.”

✅ Dr. Boyd writes more about this in her NYT piece. If you are White, I would highly recommend reading this. Rooting out unconscious bias begins with knowledge and listening. This piece titled, “Black People Need Better Vaccine Access, Not Better Vaccine Attitudes” is a must-read for us.

◾ “Many are quick to blame “vaccine hesitancy” as the reason, putting the onus on Black Americans to develop better attitudes around vaccination. But this hyper-focus on hesitancy implicitly blames Black communities for their undervaccination, and it obscures opportunities to address the primary barrier to Covid-19 vaccination: access. Access matters. A closer look at the data reveals that when Black people are given the opportunity, they do get vaccinated.”

◾ This is a powerful piece and should be recommended reading for everyone, but especially the White community. This is an opportunity for us to understand the real barriers to vaccines among our Black neighbors and quit blame-shifting (again, even if it’s unconscious, it’s still wrong). Knowledge and listening (real listening!) is a powerful tool for change and equity-building. Systemic racism, structural barriers, unconscious/blatant bias, and issues of privilege are a very real thing – 2020 certainly highlighted that in inequitable ways regarding COVID-19 infection and death rates.

◾ You can also see a video Dr. Boyd did on the piece that is a great summary:

✅ Here’s what I recommend doing:

1. Read the NYT article:

2. Watch the opening video:

3. Look at the other videos: On the Youtube channel, there are over 50 videos answering the most common questions about the COVID vaccines from Black healthcare workers, scientists, and experts. Y’all, they are so good! They include videos on vaccine safety, mRNA technology, fertility, pregnancy, etc.

4. Go ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ these two pages. These pages are FULL of incredible resources regarding COVID-19: Greater Than COVID Black Coalition Against COVID

5. Another great resource, if you are part of a Christian church community, is this video with Bishop TD Jakes. He sat down with Dr. Kissmekia Corbett (we have talked about her before – she’s part of the Moderna vaccine development team at the NIH), Dr. Fauci, and other experts to talk about vaccine education and equity for the Black community.


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