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New task force works to get more people vaccinated in the 9th Ward and New Orleans East

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:42 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - COVID-19 has been especially lethal for African Americans and in a section of New Orleans where blacks make up the largest part of the community a new effort is underway to encourage people to take the coronavirus vaccine.

The District “E” Vaccine Task Force was unveiled.

It is no secret that major missteps in research like the Tuskegee Experiment have caused lingering trust issues for some African Americans, in terms of healthcare research.

Still, local healthcare professionals and community leaders are urging blacks and other minorities to take the vaccine.

City Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen who represents the sprawling District “E” council district and health care professionals are working together to make sure residents roll up their sleeve and get the shots.

Dr. Takeisha Davis is CEO of New Orleans East Hospital.

“We want to make sure that we have fair and equitable access to the vaccine,” said Davis.

And according to data from Nguyen’s office, the Lower 9th Ward community which is part of District “E” is 85 percent African American and New Orleans East is 74 percent black.

The aim is to address hesitancy about getting the vaccine.

Nguyen says the task force has already been meeting and planning.

“We have a large number of underserved, unrepresented communities in our district and so I realized that there was a lot of work that we had to do,” she said.

Across the country, some African Americans harbor a distrust of the medical system and the infamous 40-year Tuskegee Experiment is seen as part of the reason.

The study was forced to end in 1972. According to the CDC, hundreds of black men were involved but were told by researchers they were being treated for “bad blood”, when in fact it was a syphilis study, and the men who had the disease never received appropriate treatment to cure their disease.

The task force is working to educate the public about the safety of the coronavirus vaccines.

“We provide educational workshops, address the myths. We know that there are people hesitant to take the vaccine,” said Nguyen.

Davis agrees.

“Today is about community and not about competition. Today is about spreading facts, not fiction. Today is about equity, not equality because our community was disproportionately impacted by the impact of COVID-19,” said Davis.

The virus has not only killed many blacks but also cost them their jobs and Nguyen and others say the vaccines are the way to end the pandemic.

“We get it, we know that in order to get out of this you got to take the shot.”

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