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“This is an emergency and an urgency,” former New Orleans mayor urges changes on COVID vaccine messaging

Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 6:38 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, misinformation was rampant. Now, as COVID vaccines are being given out, former New Orleans Mayor and National Urban League President, Marc Morial, says it’s time for a messaging reset.

“What we can’t do, is just simply be out there trying to shame people or force people, at this stage, to get the vaccine,” Morial said. “We’ve got to provide information. We’ve got to acknowledge the starting point for many which may be fear and apprehension.”

Recent polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 71 percent of respondents say they definitely or probably will get vaccinated. About a quarter of people say they are hesitant; of them, more than half of Black adults say they do not trust vaccines.

“I’m hearing all day every day about Tuskegee, ‘hey man they’re going to put a chip in the vaccine and it’s going to go in your arm, I don’t trust them,’” explains health educator Dr. Eric Griggs.

He says health professionals have to change how they are communicating the vaccine’s efficacy and understanding the fear.

“You let people know that their apprehension is natural but then you dive into it and you explain it,” Griggs said. “And you fully and honestly address all of their apprehensions.”

One way to ease minds, Morial says, move vaccination locations away from hospitals and pharmacies.

“Churches, community-based organizations, libraries, schools, why can’t in New Orleans the Dome be deployed? Places where people can get the vaccine that are accessible, and people are familiar with,” Morial said.

These are efforts Griggs says are on the way.

“There are a number of checks and balances and things that need to be checked off, so we don’t have the travesties of the past repeated,” Griggs said.

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