Pro-vax ad campaign hopes to reach Black community

Vaccination is one of the keys to slowing down the coronavirus, but the vaccination rate of the black and African American community lags behind other groups.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 5:31 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Vaccination is one of the keys to slowing down the coronavirus, but the vaccination rate of the black and African American community lags behind almost all other groups in Lancaster County.

It’s important to receive a the message to vaccinate from someone you trust, and that’s why Partnership for Healthy Lincoln tapped Louis Hunt, Jon McWilliams and Pastor Jesse Myles to spread this particular message: Get vaccinated to protect your families.

All three men agreed to do the ad campaign for different reasons.

For Louis, he lost a close friend to COVID.

“I want to be able to wake up the next day knowing that I don’t have to hear one of my friends passed away because of it,” Hunt said.

Jon felt a duty to help serve his community in anyway he could.

“It’s exciting. It’s an honor really to be able to, when your community calls on you and needs you to do this or do that, it’s an honor to say yes,” McWilliams said.

For Pastor Myles, he felt a moral obligation.

“As a pastor I think there is a moral obligation to it...We are not able to convince everybody, but the objective, I mean, is to convince even one,” Pastor Myles said.

All of them were pulled together by Louis’ wife, Dr. Teresa Lewis-Hunt.

She said fathers are the cornerstone of the black community and they wanted to reach out to them specifically, to encourage them to vaccinate and help protect themselves and others against COVID-19.

“When you can get a father involved, dad involved, a pastor involved, the community involved, they listen and they can say well if Pastor Myles can do it, Jon McWilliams, Louis Hunt - these are men that have been here for a long time.” Dr. Lewis Hunt said.

Black and African American people make up 4% of the population in Lancaster County, 4% of total COVID-19 cases, 3% of vaccinations And 6.5% of the COVID deaths in the community.

Lancaster County COVID Vaccination Rates by Ethnicity 2021
Lancaster County COVID Vaccination Rates by Ethnicity 2021(Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department)

The three men point to the fact that historically, there has been some hesitancy to receive vaccines in the black community, largely due to the Tuskegee Syphilis study. It’s a 40-year study that followed untreated syphilis in unsuspecting black men by withholding medication to see what the disease would do to their bodies. That continued even when a treatment to syphilis had been found.

“I would hate for that reason to continue to be used, especially when we look at the disproportionality of COVID in the black community,” Pastor Myles said. “We can’t continue to use that; the medical profession has changed. That doesn’t mean we don’t see inequity in the medical profession, to go to that place in history and continue to use that to justify, I think we need to be a bit more informed than that.”

The ads and others showcasing black physicians, mothers and families as well as ads in Spanish can be seen on StarTran buses around Lincoln. Dr. Bob Rauner, the president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln said after running several ads in Spanish, they saw the vaccination rate climb in the Hispanic community.

“Hearing it from people who look like you, that you recognize from your neighborhood, from your organizations really helps to add to the trust,” Dr. Rauner said.

Lancaster County COVID Deaths by Race/Ethnicity
Lancaster County COVID Deaths by Race/Ethnicity(Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department)

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