A NOLA Alpha on the Importance of the COVID Vaccinations  

Alpha Phi Alpha is committed to community leadership for healthy, safe and just communities, where all can thrive. Over the years we have contributed leadership in areas as diverse as natural disaster response, awarding scholarships to young men, promoting voter participation, and providing support to vulnerable populations including COVID19 support to first responders and health professionals.  The COVID 19 pandemic challenges us to be even more vocal.  We must lend our resources to address vaccine hesitancy in communities of color and the African American community specifically.

The World Health Organization identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. There is significant distrust in the African American community. As a result, there is a heightened level of vaccine hesitancy. This must be addressed with greater vigor due to the effects of COVID–19. We believe a better understanding of the clinical trial process and the goals of herd immunity will help alleviate some of the concerns in our communities.

An Examination of Vaccine Trials

Human trials for a vaccine go through a three-phase process. In each phase volunteers are given either the vaccine or a placebo.  The effectiveness and side effects of those given the vaccine is then compared to those given a placebo (usually a saline water solution).  At a very high level, these are the phases.

  • Phase I – the first administration of a vaccine candidate to humans primarily to evaluate its safety.
  • Phase II – assess the impact of demographic and other variables on immune response to identify the vaccine preparation, optimal dose, and schedule. 
  • And Phase III – evaluates the efficacy and safety of the vaccine candidate on a large population. 
Video on Vaccine Misinformation

Lots of People in Trials

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines have gone through all three phases for the clinical trial process. They had over 70,000 participants and 36,000 for those received the vaccine.  The clinical trial process addresses two of the main concerns of African Americans – being first and the concern regarding side effects.  Before the FDA approved the current vaccines, over 36,000 people got the shot.  The trial process can’t identify every possible side effect. But, because of the trial process, there is quite a bit known about side effects. Your doctor can explain them to you.

The goal is to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease. Herd immunity make the spread of disease from person to person unlikely.  This is critical. Morbidity and mortality rates in the African American community are 3 to 4 times higher than the general population.

At this point we do not know enough about COVID 19 to determine what percentage of the population must have immunity to achieve herd immunity.  The percentage needed varies based on the contagiousness of the disease.  However, we do know that vaccines are a key tool in reaching herd immunity. Getting there will allow our children to get back into their schools. Our friends and families can remain close and provide needed support. We can properly bury our loved ones and provide a sense of closure. Also other important routines, traditions, and rituals can take place. 

We are asking everyone in the African American community to 1) please talk to your doctor and 2) get the vaccine as soon as you can.

The Sigma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.  

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