Many Black Americans have expressed reluctance to take the new COVID-19 vaccine which can be attributed to a long legacy of distrust in the medical industry — including the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, the senior pastor at Mt. Zion Church on Madison’s south side, wants to make sure that his parishioners and his community get all of the information they need from a panel of experts as the vaccine becomes more readily available.
“Some of my church members have been like, ‘I’m not taking the vaccine.’ And, of course, you hear all the time that Black people won’t take it because of how we’ve been treated by the medical system,” Allen tells Madison365. “And I want to give people knowledge about it.
“I served in the United States Army so they have put so much stuff in me that I’m pretty sure I’ll be alright,” Allen adds, laughing. “But I want people to have the information to make their own decisions and to give the community the tools and resources to acquire some wisdom and knowledge about this virus and this vaccine.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Panel Discussion will be held at Mt. Zion Church and broadcast on Facebook Live on Saturday, Jan. 9, 11 a.m.
“We look at the numbers and we see how COVID-19 has affected the African-American community and communities of color. We also look at the way that African Americans have been treated by our medical system, especially when it comes to being tested on,” Allen says. “Many are fearful or they don’t trust medical professionals with the vaccine. So what we want to do is to bring together some health professionals to give us the best knowledge that we can to inform people about the vaccine, the effects that go with it, etc.”
The panel will include Damond Boatwright, the regional president of SSM Health; Dr. Sheryl Henderson of UW Health Infectious Disease; Krisna Wells, a registered nurse at Unity Point-Meriter; Shiva Bidar, the vice president and chief diversity officer at UW Health; Lourdes Shanjani of the Madison/Dane County Public Health Department; and Dr. Jasmine Zapata of UW Health.
“We will have a great panel. These panelists are all very knowledgeable and they will be able to answer questions about the vaccine and give people the information that they need,” says Allen, who will also be on the panel. “Anybody can participate through our Facebook page. We’ll have a question-and-answer period where people can ask their questions that they’ve been pondering about the virus and the vaccine.”
Community members will be able to pose their questions through the chat feature on Facebook Live.
“We’re trying to get out as much information about the vaccine as we can – especially to people of color – so that we can get our people vaccinated,” Allen says. “I’m getting vaccinated, but I know a lot of people who are like, “No, I’m not doing it.’ I just want to give people the best knowledge and I feel like professionals can help provide that.”