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Florida doctors push to make COVID-19 vaccine education accessible in minority communities

Minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with more infections and deaths than any other group.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — COVID-19 affects people from all walks of life, but it hits minority communities the hardest.

Data shows that racial and ethnic minorities are more at risk of getting COVID-19, being hospitalized and dying from the virus. There are so many reasons for this disparity: socioeconomic status, increased exposure to the virus because of occupation, access to healthcare and education.

As doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being released, some members of minority communities may be hesitant to get in line for one.

"Personally, as a Black scientist, I do understand where there can be mistrust. But, I can assure you there are people from our community who are part of developing this vaccine," said Dr. Folakemi Odedina, a professor of pharmacology and translational research at the University of Florida and a program director for the Florida Minority Cancer Research & Training Center.

A lot of minority communities have long-standing mistrust of the healthcare system, and that's an incredible hurdle to overcome when minority communities are being hit hardest by COVID-19. 

"We want to understand the misinformation we have in these communities. What are the things people are getting that's not right? What are they getting on social media, what are they getting on WhatsApp, what information is being disseminated?" explained Dr. Odedina. That's why she's helping drive local outreach in Florida's minority communities.

The Florida Community-Engaged Research Alliance Against COVID-19 or FL-CEAL is a statewide push to create outreach activities that will educate minority communities about vaccine clinical trials and COVID-19 health. It's funded by the National Institute of Health and brings together the University of Miami, Florida International University, Health Choice Network, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida A&M University and the University of Florida & OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium.

FL-CEAL wants to identify trusted community leaders in different regions of Florida to help spread education about COVID-19 and dispel any rumors about the vaccine. They also want to create materials and education in all different languages so it's accessible to more people. "People want to see people that look like them and sound like them talk about these kinds of things. Doctors, scientists, COVID-19 survivors," said Dr. Odedina.

There are opportunities to help this program spread information, you can reach out here.

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