Authorities seek to boost trust, low COVID vaccination rates among Black New Yorkers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Black New Yorkers’ skepticism about vaccines developed at record speed to fight COVID-19 means they lag behind other racial groups in inoculations to fight the pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States, officials said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Sister Marsha and volunteers distribute fresh food boxes and hand out coronavirus disease (COVID-19) survival kits as part of an outreach program to the Black community to increase vaccine trial participation in Rochester, New York, U.S., October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario/File Photo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state plans to run an advertising campaign that will seek to boost trust and dispel hesitancy among many Black New Yorkers to get the potentially life-saving vaccine.

New York City, once the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, will expand outreach to 33 communities hardest hit by the often-deadly disease, many of them extremely skeptical of vaccines, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Sunday.

While Blacks made up 24% of New York City’s population, according to 2019 data, they have so far sought and received only 11% of coronavirus vaccinations, he said. By comparison, whites made up 32% of the city’s population, yet received 48% of vaccinations, he said.

“Why? We’ve got a profound problem of distrust and hesitancy” in Black communities, de Blasio said.

A similar pattern is seen among hospital workers in the state, who were the first to be offered the vaccines, according to Cuomo.

Blacks are 17% of hospital staff in New York, yet only 10% of those who agreed to hospital vaccinations, the governor said. In comparison, Asians are 11% of hospital staff and accounted for 16% of the workers who agreed to hospital vaccinations.

“It’s the clearest demonstration of hesitancy,” Cuomo said.

So far, a total of 1.919 million doses of vaccine have been administered statewide, including more than 800,000 in New York City alone, officials said.

While another 7 million New Yorkers are waiting for the vaccine now, Cuomo said, the state receives only 300,000 doses each week.

Herd immunity against COVID-19 may require vaccination rates of at least 70%, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most prominent U.S. infectious disease expert, has said.

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