LEXINGTON, Ky. — A forum for the Black community on the COVID-19 vaccine was co-hosted Saturday by the NAACP Lexington-Fayette branch and the Lexington alumni chapter, Alpha Beta Lambda, of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

The organizations hosted three doctors, which included a psychologist, an OB-GYN, and a pharmacist to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine and answer questions for those who tuned in. 

“So we as a Black people, we talked about the disparities. We can’t be on the sidelines when it comes to this vaccine, right,” said Psychologist Dr. Shambra Mulder.

She said it’s understandable people have anxiety about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but she said it’s important to think rationally at such an important time given all of the information that’s out there. 

“So, yes, we’ve talked about it, and we may talk about it more, some of the historical experiences in the medical community, but that was a long time ago, and we know that there’s more advances in medicine, and more diversity in our medical profession, as well as more information that’s available to us,” Dr. Mulder said.

She said with the amount of information and disinformation circulating, it’s important to ask questions like is the source posting a reputable person, is the post more fact or opinion, the date of the post to ensure it’s not outdated information, and the motivation to post the information.

“It’s reasonable to suspect that there’s racial bias and racism in most institutions, including healthcare, including mental healthcare. It’s difficult to find positivity, express gratefulness, and have hope, but we want to be armed with accurate information. That’s how we are going to decrease our anxiety, is informing ourselves and making sure that we have the proper information so that we can make decisions that are best for us,” Dr. Jenkins explained.

“The speed with which this vaccine was created in, and the mountains, and mountains of this disinformation and misinformation…,” said OB/GYN Dr. Ramon Thomas are some of the reasons why he understands that people are skeptical about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Many of his patients are pregnant, and he said the exposure to COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black pregnant women

The vaccines currently available have not been tested on pregnant women, but health experts believe mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant, based on how mRNA vaccines work. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals but that pregnant patients who decline vaccination should be supported in their decision.

Dr. Thomas follows ACOG’s guidance, but he is also telling his patients, “If you are depending upon herd immunity, which means that either the population at-large has either developed natural immunity because they’ve been exposed to the virus or they’ve gotten immunity because of the vaccine, if you’re waiting on herd immunity, you may be waiting for a long time.”

Pharmacist Dr. Ryan Marable on Saturday’s forum said the disproportionate number of Black people affected by COVID-19 is what motivated him to learn more about the vaccine. He said the decision is very individualized depending on personal circumstances.

“However, the majority of our people, we have places to be. We have to either work in public. We have to take care of family members who sometimes can’t take care of themselves, and they are often more vulnerable to those effects, like I mentioned, that 2.8 times more likely to experience death or 3.7 times more likely to experience hospitalization. So with that being said, there are some times where as an individual we may have to make a decision that we otherwise would not plan to make to be able to care for our friends and family within our circles,” Dr. Marable said.

He also said people with medical conditions who are at higher-risk if they contract COVID-19 is a reason to be more urgent with making a decision on whether to get the vaccine.

Dr. Marable said he doesn’t like to give a blanket statement in that everyone should get the vaccine, but he said Black people should do their research and consider it. 

“With that being said, if you’re not going to get the vaccine, just to be blunt, like you should stay home. Like you should not go anywhere,” said Dr. Marable. He added those people should also continue to follow CDC guidelines.

The only expert on the panel to have already had the COVID-19 vaccine was Dr. Thomas. He said he only had a sore arm, and he takes his booster shot in less than two weeks. The other doctors said they will get the vaccine when it becomes available. 

The forum took questions from the Black community that were answered by the panel of experts. You can watch the whole forum here

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the CDC’s website