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Black Residents In Miami Share Both Concerns Over, And Confidence In, COVID-19 Vaccines

Simonhoff Park memorial.jpg
Verónica Zaragovia
Simonhoff Park in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood has a memorial to honor the people who've died from COVID-19. Photographed on March 4, 2021.

Black leaders in the medical field have been working to give the public confidence in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, as part of an effort to boost vaccination rates.

Jackson Health System, for instance, has produced videos, to encourage Black South Floridians to get vaccinated.

Dr. Hansel Tookes, a professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and an attending physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital who focuses on infectious disease, appears in one of the videos (Click here for a video from Jackson Health System in Haitian Creole).

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"As Black Americans, we have much higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure," Dr. Tookes says in the video interview. "All the more reason for all of us to get vaccinated."

Dr. Carol Biggs, the chief nursing officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital, also appears in the video.

"What are the alternatives to not taking this vaccine? The alternatives are the potential of getting a deadly virus," says Dr. Biggs in another clip.

COVID-19 Vaccine Facts for Black Community

WLRN visited a Chevron gas station in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood, on Northwest 54th Street, to hear why people still feel uneasy about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and why others are certain they'll choose to get vaccinated. The gas station is about five minutes away by foot from Simonhoff Park, which has a field full of tombstones made out of plastic to honor victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I won't take a flu shot, I didn't take no COVID shot or whatever. I'm living like my grandmother and them taught me, and great gran and mom and daddy," Brett Steward, 59, said. "I don't catch colds, flu. I never had measles, mumps, chicken pox. I'm not against it, but I'm not taking it. I really think people that are sickly, low-immune systems, they need to take it."

Bobby Bruce, 55, said his wife got an mRNA vaccine because she works at a local hospital, but he's going to wait and see how more people react to the vaccines before deciding if to get it himself.

"I think they did [the vaccines] a little too fast for me," Bruce said.

The vaccines did go through the standard clinical trials, however.

"Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and these vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. These vaccines cannot give you COVID-19."

Jeffrey L. Burney turns 65 on March 15 and said he would definitely get the vaccine.

"I do nothing but educate myself about what's going on around me," Burney said. "I'd rather be seen than to be looked at, because if you're looking at me, I'm in that coffin. You need to do whatever it takes to make yourself safe. If it requires vaccinating yourself, do that."

Burney did get vaccinated later that week, at the Miami Dade College North Campus. He chose a Johnson & Johnson shot.

Vaccine Guidelines