Doctor uses church to bring vaccine awareness to Black community

Dr. Katrina M. Byrd talks about the importance of reaching out to Black communities about the COVID-19 vaccine.
4:59 | 01/25/21

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Transcript for Doctor uses church to bring vaccine awareness to Black community
We want to continue our conversation that Dr. Ashton was just touching on about vaccine hesitancy among the black community. According to a university of Michigan poll, only 40% of black adults say they are somewhat or very likely to get the covid-19 vaccine. Compare that to 63% of white adults. Wow. And so what needs to change, to bring that number up? Dr. Katrina Byrd is an infection disease physician on a mission to do exactly that, and she joins us now. Thank you very much, Dr. Byrd, for being with us. And, hey, you're trying an approach that I'm very curious to hear how it's going. You're using the church to get people to get vaccinated. Tell me what you're doing and how it's working. As an infectious disease specialist, I've seen covid-19 firsthand, and it's devastating. So witnessing this, I really wanted to do something about it, to prevent disease. So with the support of the covid clinical trials group I have been reaching out directly to local churches in my community to basically provide accurate information and to answer any questions about the vaccine and its development. And from there, I had opportunities to talk to the local black African-American community groups, as well as online. We talk about -- during this pandemic, we heard tuskegee come up several times but the numbers we just showed about the African-American community being a little hesitant maybe to take it, there's some historical context. Why is that important to continue to bring that up, but also why do you think -- explain why the church is a good place to get that message out to the black church. Yes, so to bring tuskegee into the picture briefly, this was a study that was started in the 1930s, and specifically it enrolled black men with syphilis, and the purpose of the study was just to observe syphilis when left untreated, even when treatment became available. And to be honest, this really hurt the black community. Number one, the men did not have informed consent because they didn't even know they had syphilis. And two, you know, when treatment was available, they weren't given treatment. So this kind of reminds people, black people in particular, about their own personal experiences when they weren't treated fairly in the health care system. So in my opinion, going to the black church has been pivotal because this is where we get information. Just think about the civil rights movement. Just think about reverend Dr. Martin Luther king. This is where he started his ministry and got good accurate information. So I felt that this was a good place that I can start. Dr. Byrd, you are an infectious disease expert. You said you have seen firsthand how devastating this is, this covid-19 illness is. What do you say then to people when you're talking to them, who are adamant that they don't want to get this vaccine? Well, the first thing is I acknowledge their opinion, and I acknowledge the mistrust. I think sometimes going with the strategy of trying to force people into doing something they don't want to do overall doesn't work. But I remind people that we know that vaccines work. Vaccines, according to the nnwr, has been considered the top ten public health interventions of the 20th century. Why? Because it led to the elimination of smallpox and the control of many other infections that devastated our country. So we know from experience that vaccination works. Have you seen any indication yet that we are getting somewhere in our messaging through this pandemic? Look, we can all take our informal polls and friends we talk to, and even guests we have and people we talk to in this business. But are we still -- are you seeing any indication that this message is getting across? I think it's slow. So unfortunately, we're still battling an active pandemic. But from what I have seen personally -- let me just say, when I first set out to do this mission, every single person told me they weren't getting the vaccine, without hesitation. Now I'm slowly seeing that change. I think it's just going to be a persistent battle as we get Americans more access to the vaccination. Well, Dr. Byrd, like you said, maybe slowly, but surely. But you being a part of that messaging and made it your responsibility, your duty, your mission, to get that message out so we appreciate your work and we appreciate you being here. A first-timer here with "Gma3." So you can come back any time. We consider you now a friend of the show, all right, Dr. Byrd, we'll see you again. Thank you so much. All right.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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