As the year ends and Californians prepare for the next year, officials are working day and night to ensure 2021 is a change of reality for nearly everyone. To help get things back to normal, Covered California partnered with Black healthcare leaders to form a message urging California residents to get COVID-19 vaccinations and for those in need to get health insurance for the upcoming year.
In a webinar held Tuesday, December 22, 2020, Executive Director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee moderated the virtual meeting that featured panelists from several prominent figures within the Black community to discuss the importance of healing our nation. “Pew Research survey recently found that 70 percent of Black Americans know someone who’s either died or been hospitalized because of COVID. Now, this is far higher than we see in other ethnic groups for Latinos about 60 percent for Whites about 50 percent. That survey though reflects the reality that the COVID pandemic is hitting the African American community harder than any other community,” Lee began. Research also showed that only about 42 percent of Black people are willing to take the vaccine which is also well below the 83 percent of Asians, 63 percent of Latinos, and 61 percent of White Americans who said they would if it were available today.
To build trust and increase the numbers, Covered California welcomed Dr. David Carlisle, president, and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, and Dr. Adrian James, CMO of West Oakland Health Council to discuss the significance and give insight on the subject.
“We hope that we can use the vaccines to eliminate COVID-19 and drive down these infection rates but in order to do this, people have to take the vaccines. Number one, we have to make sure that vaccines are available, especially to the under-resourced and most vulnerable communities that were bypassed initially by COVID-19 testing,” Dr. Carlisle stated. “While it is understandable to question things, the science is clear: We are dealing with a deadly pandemic. COVID-19 kills, and the only solution is a vaccination.”
Lee took his message a step further to point out those who work in retail and in restaurants, and many frontline workers outside of the medical field who are without health insurance. “This pandemic has brought home more than ever, the importance of health insurance coverage.” Covered California has teamed up with the American Heart Association, the National Staff Medical Association, and celebrities and athletes such as NBA player Steph Curry to encourage residents to get covered to protect themselves and their families. “Today in America, too many people in our communities don’t have health insurance. It’s one reason why Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID and other health conditions. That’s got to change,” Curry said in a video displayed during the webinar.
During the call Dr. Batchlor and Dr. James spoke to the conditions of their hospital and staff, sharing that both were functioning over 100 percent capacity due to COVID cases. “We have more COVID-19 patients in our hospital than facilities that are three to four times our size do, and while we exceeded our surge-plan capacity a few days ago, the patients continue to come,” Dr. Batchlor stated. “More than 80 percent of our staff are people of color, and we have vaccinated hundreds of our front-line workers. We need to show the Black community that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and encourage them to get it when they can.”
“The vaccine was developed in record time, but there were brilliant minds behind it. My patients do ask me, ‘are you going to take the vaccine, Dr. James?’ The answer is yes. I trust the science is safe and effective. I’ve looked at the data, I am going to take it. It’s been stressful, but we can get through this if we all work together. We educate and we vaccinate,” Dr. James stated.
The panelist also spoke about the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 which Dr. Carlisle is also a member. Just a months ago the coalition put together a heartfelt informational video title, “A Love Letter To Black America” which was backed by Black doctors and nurses from several HBCUs, the National Urban League, and blackdoctors.org reassuring every American that safety and Black lives are at the core of their work.
“Covered California stands shoulder to shoulder with you in a sincere commitment to create a world that is healthier and more just than it is today. We can’t do that without being healthy. We can’t do that without doing everything we can to react and respond to the COVID pandemic, but also to react to respond to a healthcare system that has allowed disparities and other forms to exist,” Lee stated putting his support behind the various Black figures working to provide education, safety, and equality to the community.