focus group

Boston Focus Group Considers Minorities' COVID Vaccine Trust Gap

The focus group at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood listened to concerns from people who have skepticism about getting the COVID-19 vaccine

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As the COVID-19 vaccine distribution gets underway across the United States, a Boston-area focus group on Wednesday listened to concerns from people who have skepticism about getting the shot.

The focus group was held at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood and not only discussed COVID-19 vaccines but talked about trust, something that is lacking in communities of color.

Carol Crippen lives in the city's Dorchester neighborhood and says she will not get the vaccine right away.

"I will not be the first one to jump out the door and take this vaccine," she said Wednesday. "I'm not sure that I really trust it. I want to see what is going on with it. I want to see what the adverse reactions are."

After decades of being ignored by the scientific community, many people of color say they are wary. Whittier Street Health Center is trying to figure out how to break through that wall of suspicion.

"How many people of color, specifically African Americans, participated in the trial because I'm thinking that might be something positive to add to help people in our community be more comfortable with wanting to take this," said Monica Johnson, a Whittier board member.

Wednesday's meeting is the first of many that will try to craft a message that will bring people in to get vaccinated. Part of that may be reassuring people the scientists encourage reporting of issues.

"They want to know and they want to gather all this information so that if something is going on they can deal with it, identify it quickly and do something about it," Melissa Leaston, the Director of Nursing at Whittier Street Health Center pointed out.

Health officials said it all comes down to trust.

"We want to let them know these are new times. This is a new medication. Trials and studies have been done differently than they have been done 70, 80 years ago," Whittier St Health Center medical director Dr. Stephen Wright said.

Health officials also want to stress that getting vaccinated doesn't mean an instant return to normal. There is still months of mask wearing, social distancing and self-isolation before the pandemic will be over.

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