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Talladega NAACP president urges Black Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine

Hugh Morris

Talladega NAACP President Rev. Hugh Morris receives his vaccine against COVID-19.

The Talladega County Chapter of the NAACP has issued an urgent call for African-Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine when they have the opportunity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is infecting Black Americans at a rate three times that of whites and they are twice as likely to die from it, according to a recent report from the National Urban League, based partly on data from Johns Hopkins University," according to Talladega NAACP President Rev. Hugh Morris. "According to APM Research Lab, 55,580 Black Americans are known to have lost their lives to COVID-19 through Tuesday, Jan. 5. There were 5,586 new deaths reported among Blacks since the last report four weeks earlier, which was an acceleration of losses over the preceding four weeks (3,767). The numbers are even higher today.”

He added that African-Americans need to be aware of how COVID-19 can worsen underlying health conditions.

“African-Americans have higher rates of underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19,” Morris said. “They also often have less access to quality health care, and are disproportionately represented in essential front-line jobs that can't be done from home, increasing their exposure to the virus. Focusing on these disparities is crucial for helping the Black communities respond to the virus effectively — so everyone is safer. As of Feb. 15, 2021, Talladega had 7,276 cases of Covid-19. The Black/White ratio is unknown at this time. It is imperative, in my opinion, to seek ways to eradicate this disparity. I think it's incumbent on all of us to realize that the health of all of us depends on the health of each of us.”

Morris went on to explain that the demographic data compiled by the state, according to WVTM-13, show about 55 percent of vaccines have gone to white people so far, compared to about 11 percent for Blacks. By comparison, Alabama’s population is about 27% Black, Census figures show.

"With all of this in mind, we should be doing everything within our power to level the field," he said. "Therefore, the Talladega County NAACP is asking for community leaders to take more aggressive measures to vaccinate the Black community in Talladega.”

He added that establishing vaccination sites in the Black community is a top priority. Dr. Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College, is agreeable to having a vaccination site on his campus. Frank Thomas, CEO of Citizens Baptist, said he is open for discussion concerning the same. There are some African American Churches that are willing to step up to the plate. Priority No. 2 is educating the Black community.

“Education begins with clear messages from messengers who are trusted by the community," he said. "It is fundamentally a fear of the unknown for some of us. We may not want to sign up for the vaccine because we do not have adequate information. We need for more community leaders to explain to our Black communities the pros and cons of the vaccine.

"There are African-Americans who are anxious about these vaccines, or they're anxious about who is delivering them. Deep distrust of the medical system, stemming from a history of discrimination and unethical medical experiments, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, has driven the high levels of vaccine skepticism in the Black community. Civil rights leader Fred Gray, the lawyer who won a $10 million settlement in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Tuskegee Study victims, is helping the effort by publicly supporting the COVID-19 vaccines.

"Gray, now 90 and still practicing law in Tuskegee, urged people to get vaccinated in an interview with WIAT TV. ‘I plan to take the vaccine, he said, calling it ridiculous to deny a potentially life-saving shot. I have taken mine but I'm still practicing wearing double masks and staying six feet apart.’”

Morris said that if someone is over the age of 65 and needs a ride to get a shot, call him at 256-493-0525.