Talking It Over

A new campaign led by Bay Area comedian and CNN host W. Kamau Bell is providing Black communities with facts about COVID-19 vaccines.

 

What information do you need to feel safe getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s your turn? That’s the central question of The Conversation: Between Us, About Us, a new campaign to provide the Black community with credible information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“There are two major barriers to Black folks receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. Neither one of them are vaccine hesitancy,” said Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and public health advocate who codeveloped the campaign with KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) and the Black Coalition Against COVID-19. “The barriers are accessible facts about the COVID-19 vaccines and convenient access to receive a vaccine.”

The launch video features Bay Area comedian and CNN host W. Kamau Bell in an open, honest conversation with 12 Black doctors, nurses, and researchers. “There’s good news out there. There’s a COVID-19 vaccine. Yay!” said Bell in the video. “But the bad news is, as Black folks it’s hard to trust what’s going on. So what do we do? Well, we turn to people we can trust. Black folks. But not just your uncle at the cookout. No, no, no, actually not him at all. I’m talking about Black scientists, Black doctors, and Black nurses.”

The campaign includes a library of FAQ videos with answers from the featured Black health care experts. The videos can be filtered by concern, including the vaccine’s effectiveness, its safety for seniors, and its effect on sexual health. The library currently contains 50 videos and will be updated as new questions arise and information becomes available.

“I understand why intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful Black folks are nervous about the vaccine. I have also done my research, I have my trusted sources, so I am not nervous about the vaccine,” Bell said in a behind-the-scenes video about why he joined the project. “I want to be part of getting our people vaccinated and healthy.”

Power Partnerships

The campaign has received support from the Biden administration, which has been outspoken about its commitment to racial equity. “I’m proud to listen to and support The Conversation,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, chair of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and associate dean at Yale University. “This work truly exemplifies the power partnerships have to uplift the voices of Black health care workers and ensure that those most impacted by this pandemic have the resources they need to respond to it.”

Black Californians comprise 6% of the state’s population but have only received 3% of the vaccine doses administered so far. “As a Black physician, I know from experience that Black people are some of the most sophisticated and discerning health care consumers in the country,” Boyd wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times. “Black people deserve to make this important medical decision like all other patient populations, equipped with the access they need to insurance coverage, reliable care, credible information, and actual vaccines.”

While the video project is geared to the Black community, the information in the campaign is relevant to anyone who has questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s not just Black folks who are dealing with the fact that there’s an information gap,” Bell said in an interview with KQED. “We live in maybe the biggest information gap since the Middle Age[s]. So I think it is important for those of us who are in positions of privilege, who have that blue check mark on Twitter to . . . say, ‘These are the vetted sources. These are the people who you should really be listening to.’”

CHCF is proud to sponsor this campaign with KFF, the Commonwealth Fund, Sierra Health Foundation, and YouTube.