NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Getting more minorities to sign-up for the COVID-19 has been a huge problem across the country and right here in Middle Tennessee.
More than half of Tennesseans over 75 have received a vaccine but the number of Black Tennesseans to get a dose still remains low.
When it was time for 81-year-old Johnnie Parson to be vaccinated, she says she was ready.
"When they said time to go, that's when I went to get my shot to stay healthy for a little longer," said Parson.
But getting African Americans like Parson to get vaccinated has been a problem even before the pandemic.
"I can't live that far back, I got to live for now," said Parson, "So that's why I came to get my shot and I hope the rest of black people will do that."
The Tennessee Department of Health tells us about 20 percent of the administered vaccine doses in Tennessee have been given to racial and ethnic minorities.
The percentage of Blacks is much lower than the state would like with close to 54,985 or 6.7 percent so far getting vaccinated. The state numbers do remain higher than the national average 6.2 percent.
"As a Black male, I know it’s usually we're a little more guarded about doing these things but it’s time we step up and do what's right," said William Fedderman.
Fedderman says it was his wife to encourage him to get vaccinated.
"There's so many people out here dying I wanted to make sure I was protected myself as well as my family," said Shannon Fedderman.
Medical experiments performed on many Black Americans like the Tuskegee Project and Dr. J. Marion Sims -- 19th-century gynecologist who experimented on enslaved women, still weigh heavy on the minds of many today.
While others say let the research speak for itself.
"Listen to The scientist in the medical people and you can't go wrong. And what happened in the past is totally different, it’s not the same and you have to know your history and compare it to it you can understand what's going on," said Sarah Smith.
Smith took her 85-year-old brother to get his second dose at the Music City Center.
The Tennessee Department of Health tells Newschannel 5 several strategies have been executed to address vaccine hesitancy and encourage uptake in both the Black/AA and Hispanic communities:
- At least 119 community health partners are now receiving vaccine allocations, which will increase the number of access points and equity for vaccine.
- The Office of Health Disparities Elimination is partnering with faith-based and community organizations, federally-qualified health centers and hospitals in both metro and rural counties to assist with appointments and transportation needs for those eligible to receive vaccine.
- Our Division of Health Disparities Elimination, which includes the Office of Minority Health, Office of Rural Health and Office of Faith-Based and Community Engagement, has increased engagement and outreach with partners in both Black and Hispanic communities in the state to assist those eligible for vaccination in making appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as well as how to navigate through the various tools available on COVID19.TN.GOV.