NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - As the vaccine rollout continues, many minority communities feel left out, and the numbers back that stance. Data shows black and Latino Americans are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at a much lower rate than white people. So we decided to sit down and talk about vaccine equality with the President of Meharry Medical College, Dr. James Hildreth.
“If we want to save as many lives as possible, that should be our goal is saving lives. What are you to do?” said Dr. Hildreth. “You give it to the people that are most likely to die from COVID-19, and all those who have less risk you get it to them later. The problem is that the folks with the most risk look like me. They are brown and black; anytime race gets injected into any of our conversations, as you know, it becomes problematic.”
We took a closer look at the numbers. The ethnic make-up of Tennessee is 77% white and 16 % black. The latest distribution data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows of the vaccines given, 67.4% of vaccines have been given to white Tennesseans and only 5.9% to black Tennesseans. Dr. Hildreth says it reveals a huge problem with getting vaccines into minority communities.
“There are a lot of reasons for that. One is a lot are living in minority communities don’t have access to the places where the vaccines are given. For some others, there’s a technical challenge because the platform to make an appointment is all based on the internet and access to the internet. There are a lot of people who don’t have access to the internet.” He said.
Dr. Hildreth also knows there is a lack of trust within the minority community about the vaccine. That’s an issue he feels has an easy fix.
“That means getting trusted organizations involved. And quite frankly, MeHarry is one of those trusted organizations, as are our churches and community organizations. That’s how you solve this problem. You find the right people to get the vaccine to those who need it,” said Dr. Hildreth.
Dr. Hildreth knows his views may not be popular, but he says he will continue to fight for what he believes in. It’s part of who he is and part of the Hippocratic Oath he made as a doctor.
“The first thing in the oath is to do no harm. If you can’t help people, if you can’t solve their problems. The most important thing is do no harm. And as far as I’m concerned to not do what we know we can do because of these things that we have to deal with in fact, harm is being done. Lives are being lost that don’t need to be. And that keeps you up at night.” Hildreth said.
Dr. Hildreth believes the vaccine works. That’s why he is so passionate about getting it to the people that need it – including all those at a high-risk of dying, including the elderly, those living in assisted living and those with pre-existing conditions.