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COVID-19 vaccination rate improves in Tennessee’s Black community, but still lags behind

Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 2:50 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Vaccine holdouts not only include those who live in rural, predominately white areas, they also include a significant number of African-Americans who live in cities like Memphis.

The vaccination rate in the black community has improved significantly, but it’s still far from where health experts say it should be.

Like many Memphians, Tabitha Cole has doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those doubts didn’t go away, even as she waited in line to get her vaccination at the Pipkin Building on Saturday.

“To be honest I’m a little skeptical still, only because it wasn’t enough research for me personally to see the long-term effects,” said Cole.

But the unexpected surge in COVID-19 cases in Shelby County along with growing concerns over the Delta variant led her to think long and hard about what would be best for her family.

“I don’t want to take the chance of getting that especially with me having to deal with the public on a daily basis and bringing it home to my children,” said Cole. “It’s more about them than me.”

That’s a message doctors hope will get through to other vaccine holdouts, in particular those in the black community.

Blacks make up 17.1 percent of Tennessee’s population but only made up 5.6 percent of the state’s total vaccinations in January, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Thanks to awareness and outreach campaigns Blacks now make up 11.4 percent of the state’s total vaccinations.

But there’s still a ways to go.

Many members of the black community have faced discrimination and hold a historical mistrust of the healthcare system.

Cole says she understands that but says there’s something more important to consider.

“It’s worth it for our children,” said Cole. “You don’t want to bring that home and then your kids get sick because that’s the worst feeling in the world, feeling helpless that you can’t do anything but you could have prevented it by just getting the vaccine.”

The Hispanic community in Tennessee has seen great improvement in its vaccination rate.

Hispanics make up 5.7 percent of Tennessee’s population, but made up only 2 percent of total vaccinations in January, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Hispanics now make up 5 percent of the state’s total vaccinations.

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