New Jersey college presidents urge Black, brown communities to get COVID vaccine
New Jersey’s college and university presidents of color are calling on Black and brown communities to set aside misgivings and get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
"We urge our communities of color, who already struggle with many underlying health conditions that put us at a much higher risk for COVID-19, to listen, understand and act on the science showing that these vaccines are safe," they wrote in a statement released Monday.
The public letter was signed by six college presidents: Augustine A. Boakye of Essex County College; James W. Crawford III of Felician University; Marcheta P. Evans of Bloomfield College; Barbara Gaba of Atlantic Cape Community College; Jonathan Holloway of Rutgers University; and Lamont O. Repollet of Kean University.
The college presidents stressed that the virus has already killed a disproportionately high number of people of color across this country. Without the vaccine, the consequences could be even more dire, they warned.
"It’s literally about saving your life and the lives of your friends, family and community members," they wrote in the statement. "Please do not permit fear, along with past and present distrust, to keep you and your families from receiving a vaccine that may save your lives."
Their public statement comes as communities of color grapple with skepticism and mistrust that stems in large part from their historic mistreatment in the medical profession.
That history has included forced hysterectomies and sterilizations, as well as the use of Black and brown individuals for unwanted and harmful medical research. Adding to the mistrust are present-day disparities in care for Black and brown medical patients.
The college presidents said they understand the fear "brought on by current and historic experiences." But data has shown that the two approved vaccines are safe, with an effectiveness rate greater than 94% and minimal known side effects.
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New Jersey has distributed nearly 1.07 million doses of vaccine, according to state data. Data showed half were given to white residents, 6% to Asians, 5% to Hispanics and 3% to Black recipients. Those numbers may not give a complete picture, however: 37% of the shots went to people classified as "other" or "unknown."
According to 2019 census estimates, 68% of the state population is white, 13.5% Black and 9.5% Asian. About 20% described themselves as Hispanic or Latino, a category that includes multiple races.
The college presidents pledged to continue dialogue and conduct activities on campuses to help lessen the fear surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Standing together in getting vaccinated against COVID-19, we can help end this pandemic and minimize loss of life," they wrote. "When it is your turn, we hope you will feel empowered with trust in the science to protect yourself and those around you."
Hannan Adely is a diversity and education reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.