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BLACK HISTORY MONTH SERIES: Local NAACP chapter leads discussion on vaccine safety

COVID-19 vaccine

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Why should I trust this vaccine?

This question has been asked by many in private and was posed to Mayo Clinic health experts this weekend. The Rochester NAACP brand moderated a forum Saturday morning with medical professionals about distrust in communities of color when it comes to healthcare.

All of the medical professionals at Saturday's forum acknowledged errors in the past when it comes to serving minority communities. While they admit there's work to still be done in healthcare equity, they assure everyone that the vaccine is safe, no matter your race.

"There's always been some mistrust of vaccines. There's always been a lot of people that have these sorts of theories about vaccines. They're just not founded," said Dr. William Morice, Mayo Clinic laboratories department chair.

Dr. Morice urges people to find trusted sources, but for the African-American community, there is much distrust when it comes to healthcare.

"Okay they got this vaccine and it was super rapid. I'm going to keep it real if I can. They did it on a bunch of white people. It works for them, but if I take it, I'm going to grow two left arms," said Donovan Bailey, co-host of Barbershop Talk and moderator at Saturday's forum.

"I fully understand the hesitancy to take part in studies or even trust easily," added Dr. Jane Njeru, Mayo Clinic internist from Kenya.

However, Dr. Njeru assures everyone the vaccine is safe. She says the 95 percent efficiency is one of the best even among vaccines. But how does it work?

"This vaccine is giving you the blueprints. I'm calling it the IKEA vaccine. It gives you the blueprint and let you build your own target protein for this virus," said Dr. Muhamad Elrashidi, Mayo Clinic internist.

He says the vaccine does not alter your DNA, does not give you any of the virus and was not developed in a hurry. Much of the research came from another coronavirus over a decade ago, SARS.

"So what they did really wasn't starting new. They just pivoted to a cousin. What they did before built this," explains Dr. Rahma Warsame, Mayo Clinic hematologist.

When building the vaccine, more African-Americans were included in trials. It's something Dr. Warsame thinks can be explained.

"The social unrest that happened after the tragedy of George Floyd was right before Phase Three trials opened for all of these," Warsame said.

As for the unknown and long term side effects?

"There's continued monitoring," Warsame said. "I think people think the trial has ended."

"We can definitely trust the science," Morice agrees. "They didn't cut any corners. They were able to do it extremely quickly because of the interest and teamwork across the globe essentially."

The Black History Month series continues next Saturday with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison as the featured guest.

Alex Tejada

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