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Black Doctors and Minority Health Professionals Debunk COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation

By Dena Vang   

Dena Vang  
Dena Vang  

The Biden-Harris Administration continues to push and administer as many COVID-19 vaccinations as quickly as possible, especially as reported cases of new variants of the virus increase. 

Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vaccines pose significant challenges in the race against new variants, especially among communities of color. Black and Hispanic people have had persistently lower rates of vaccination compared to their White counterparts across most states. These lower vaccination rates leave Black and Hispanic communities at increased risk for infection and death as new strains such as the Delta variant spread. In a recent town hall meeting hosted by Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC), a panel of Black doctors and minority health professioinals addressed addressed vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 myths.  

Are we close to the end of the pandemic? 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Senior Advisor, White House COVID-19 Response Team  

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The light is there, and it does get brighter. I think there’s a lot of cause and reason for optimism. We have vaccines that continue to be really effective. Hundreds of millions of doses [have been] given safely. We’re seeing signs all over the country of reopening, but there is a note there. We are still in a “choose our own adventure” scenario and situation. We are watching closely, for example, variants. Yes, [there are] lots of reasons to be hopeful, but we are not at the end yet.  

Does the vaccine change your DNA? 

Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, CEO of Grapevine Health

The mRNA is only in your body for a short period of time. People who are concerned about it hanging around and changing your DNA, it actually doesn’t even come in contact with your DNA. 

Is the virus in the vaccine? Can the vaccine give you the disease? 

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Dr. Peter Marks, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research 

These vaccines that we have, none of them have the live or the killed virus. So you can’t get COVID-19 from these vaccines. It’s not possible.  

Is there a robot chip in the vaccine? 

Dr. Peter Marks, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research 

There are absolutely no robot chips in these vaccines. I can tell you that we have a group of inspectors at FDA who take their jobs really seriously. Their job is to make sure that these biologic products are what they say they are. There are no chips.  

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Dr. Melissa Clarke, CEO of the BHE Group 

There are no chips. There are no heavy metals or thimerosal or eggs in the vaccine, which are common things that people always ask and are concerned about.  

Do you need to get the vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19? 

 Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity  

You should still get vaccinated. The data on natural immunity is that it doesn’t last as long as the data that we have for immunity that’s conferred for vaccinations. The other thing that we know is that the effect of vaccination against the variants is really strong, especially with the Delta variant on the move and increasing in frequency. 

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Does COVID-19 affect younger people? 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Senior Advisor, White House COVID-19 Response Team 

Those who are 18–26 dispel those myths that COVID doesn’t affect you. We’re seeing in our hospitals younger people getting admitted. We’re seeing people who are struggling with long COVID – those symptoms that just linger and last and can be debilitating after infection. Now we have Delta, which is quite frankly a threat to all the progress that we have made. So more urgent than ever, please get vaccinated. It’s what we need to do for ourselves and our communities.  

Should pregnant women get the vaccine? Can breastfeeding women get the vaccine? 

Dr. Samira L. Brown, National Medical Association 

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We would definitely recommend that both pregnant women who are at increased risk for complications of COVID-19 and also breastfeeding mothers that they all get vaccinated, and it has shown to be safe thus far. We highly recommend that and it’s a great way to protect that newborn that’s coming.  

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?  

 Dr. Peter Marks, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research  

There is no reason whether you are male or female that you should not get a COVID vaccine. It does not have any effect on fertility. It does not affect your genetic material that you can pass on to your children.  

Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity 

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The idea of fertility or reproductive health – this is a common trope. We’ve seen people use that frame to deter people from vaccination all over the world. But you do have to go back to the science, and you have to go back to the data, and we have no reason to believe that it does [cause infertility]. 

Should people with allergies get the vaccine? Should people with chronic illnesses get the vaccine?Who should not get vaccinated? 

Dr. Melissa Clarke, CEO of the BHE Group 

There is only one clear category of people who should not get vaccinated. Those are people who are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine. The ingredients in the vaccine are listed at the FDA website. Those individuals who might have a history of allergy could check on those. But those are the only people. For people who have a history of underlying illnesses, those are the very people who are most at risk for COVID-19 and having a poor outcome meaning ending up in the hospital or dying. Those individuals should get vaccinated because we’re seeing again, against the Delta variant, that the vaccines are 90 percent effective in preventing severe illness and death.  

Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, CEO of Grapevine Health 

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I want to reassure everyone that protocols are in place at all of the vaccine sites so that if someone does have a reaction, there’s someone there immediately to attend to the person. The beauty of the body’s response when there’s an allergic response or when you come in contact with something you’re allergic to is that it’s pretty immediate. That’s the reason we have to wait 15–20 minutes after the vaccine because we’re waiting to see if that reaction will happen, and if it does occur on the spot, someone is there to help. So even in the event that someone has an allergy but they don’t know about it, I’m confident that there will be someone there to rescue them.  

To find a vaccine site, search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

For resources and toolkits to help you build vaccine confidence in your community, visit the We Can Do Thiswebsite.   

To view the town hall in its entirety, visit the BlackDoctor.org YouTube Channel.  

Dena Vang is the Public Relations Manager at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the BCAC. 

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