SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Over the last 18 months of the pandemic, we’ve seen the virus disproportionately impact communities of color in a variety of ways from quarantining, treatment, and then the vaccine.

According to medical experts and community leaders, the Black and African American experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for those who work in occupations that didn’t allow them the option to work from home. Therefore, it often increased anxiety of being exposed to or contracting COVID-19.

Race and ethnic groups such as the Black and African American communities also show lower vaccination rates than others. State data shows, as of September 24th, that 40.4% of Black and African Americans in Utah have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is the second-lowest rate out of all ethnic groups. Native Americans are at 36.2 percent, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Americans are at 41.7 percent, Asian Americans are at 54.3 percent, Hispanic and Latino Americans are at 56.6 percent, and White Americans are at 65.7 percent.

A number of reasons exist for vaccine hesitancy among Utah’s Black and African American population. Experts say one — myths, misinformation, and a rumor from family spreads faster than vaccine facts and is difficult to overcome, especially if repeated more often than science and fact-based information. Two, due to the small Black and African American population in Utah, not as many have been disproportionately affected and thus, the “wait and see” approach has been adopted more for those between the ages of 18 to 45. Three, there’s a lack of information and transparency around the vaccine.

There are a number of strategies and proposed solutions to help bring vaccination numbers up among Utah’s Black and African American communities. Those options include increasing registration options, allow scheduling of appointments, showing compassion and respect when doing intake questions, making accommodations, having community leaders build confidence in the vaccine, communicate that the shot is free, offer clinics outside normal business hours, pair up with local organizations, and more.

Dr. Richard Ferguson, president of Black Physicians of Utah and chief medical officer of Health Choice Utah, and Dr. Samuel Cheshier, associate professor of pediatric neurosurgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen for an IN FOCUS discussion.

They discussed what the Black/African American experience has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic, how someone’s occupation or profession may have determined the kind of experience they had during the COVID-19 pandemic, the data on vaccinations when it’s broken down by race and ethnicity, what are some of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, how historical exploitation play a role in how vaccines are viewed, proposed solutions to increase vaccination rates, and how they’ll implement these strategies in the community.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Cheshier, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.