DeSantis adds vaccination sites in communities of color but some Blacks are distrustful about the shots

By: - February 25, 2021 5:49 pm

FAMU’s campus. Credit: Issac Morgan

Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to increase vaccine doses to residents in communities of color, some Blacks remain mistrustful about the medical system and the difficulties in accessing the vaccines, Black leaders say.

DeSantis on Thursday went to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville — the first historic Black college in Florida — to announce six new vaccination sites in underserved communities, often in historically Black neighborhoods.

Edward Waters, as well Tallahassee’s Florida A & M University, also a historic Black college, will have two of the vaccinations sites.

The other four sites are in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Osceola counties.

“These sites will offer at least 200 vaccines a day,” the governor said. “The goal here is to be able to reach out anyone who may fall through the cracks, who doesn’t necessarily have access to a retail pharmacy, or not necessarily a hospital.”

But Yvette Lewis, president of the NAACP Hillsborough County Branch, told the Florida Phoenix those efforts by the state to open vaccination sites in communities of color are only the first step in gaining the trust of Blacks.

“The state of Florida has a long way to go when it comes to instilling trust in Black people…I guess it is a way of reckoning,” Lewis said.

A mistrust of the medical system that exists among some Blacks is deeply rooted in history.

For instance, the Tuskegee experiment starting in 1932, left Black men to suffer from syphilis by withholding medical treatment to study the disease. The men were misled and unable to provide informed consent.

State Rep. Tracie Davis, who is a Black Democrat representing part of Duval County, said in a statement Thursday:

“Trust is a factor in the African American community regarding vaccinations that must be acknowledged. Today is about our community, equitable access, and doing more than just enough; it is bigger than politics.

“I am confident with Edward Waters College and other community partners working together to provide a permanent vaccination site in this community that will increase the trust and more African Americans will have access to the coronavirus vaccination in an effort to save lives.”

At Edward Waters College, President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr. said in a statement that the new vaccination site will be especially important for seniors, “many of whom represent a demographic that has been disproportionately impacted by this horrific COVID-19 virus.”

In Tallassee, FAMU is on the Southside of the city, where many Black people reside.

Larry Robinson, president of FAMU, said in a written statement:

“After recently having the second dose of the vaccine in public view, I am committed to leading by example as the University helps to build trust for vaccines among African Americans. Having a trusted partner like Florida A&M University is vital to our efforts to address vaccine hesitancy in our community.

“We appreciate Governor DeSantis and his Administration for recognizing the important roles that Florida HBCUs can play through this initiative to save lives and allow communities to flourish as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

DeSantis has been traveling the state adding vaccination sites as the COVID pandemic continues.

But the governor has come under criticism recently over whether certain groups — from people in wealthy neighborhoods to Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans — are getting in front of the line for vaccine doses, with help from influential lawmakers, business leaders and other connections.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.