N.J. Lt. Gov. Oliver: Take the COVID-19 vaccine to the community

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the current surge?

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver joined community leaders, academics, and clergy in a virtual roundtable discussion of ways to encourage the state’s Black community to get vaccinated.

Lt. Gov. Oliver said she had reasons to be hopeful that vaccine hesitancy is on the decline.

“I am seeing more and more African Americans step up and say now they want to be vaccinated,” she said.

The online event took place Tuesday afternoon and was streamed on Gov. Phil Murphy’s Facebook page and later posted on YouTube.

Historically, African Americans have mistrusted medicine due to racial discrimination and the kind of horrific mistreatment demonstrated in the Tuskegee Experiment.

Bringing vaccine access and equity to Black residents remains a top priority of the Murphy Administration as they continue to fight the pandemic. Oliver, who is Black, said non-traditional ways of bringing the vaccine to the community should be embraced. She cited strategies similar to initiatives that visited nursing homes to test residents for coronavirus and programs implemented to educate Black men about prostate cancer.

“I think we’re going to have to maybe do some of those types of grassroots projects of going into barbershops, leaving leaflets,” she said. “I think that is the way we’re going to have to get more connected.”

Dr. David Kountz of Hackensack Meridian Health said that many people will need more than one conversation to be convinced of the vaccine’s safety.  “We’re not going to overcome, for some people, a lifetime of concern, anxiety, distrust, in a single meeting, a single telephone call.”

He said friends, clergy, celebrities and other trusted sources could all act as “multiple touchpoints” to help break down vaccine hesitancy.

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