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Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine pause negatively impacting trust in Black community

As the pause on J&J vaccine distribution continues, concern is growing that vaccine-hesitant communities could grow wary of getting any COVID-19 vaccine.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Johnson and Johnson vaccine distribution is still being held while the CDC and federal officials investigate.

US health advisers say they will be looking for more data on the rare blood clots before making a decision on the next steps for the vaccine. 

While the pause lasts, there has been growing concern around the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, especially in communities where vaccine hesitancy was already high.

“I do believe that it's making people think twice about it. And I'm probably more concerned about the fact that it may actually cause people to have hesitancy around vaccines overall. And not just Johnson and Johnson," said Kevin Sneed, Dean of the USF Health Taneja College of Pharmacy.

An unfortunate development according to Sneed, "We really have to let people understand that the virus is still far more dangerous than any one of the vaccines on the market.”

Community leaders, like Reverend Dr. Brett Snowden, the pastor at Greater Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa have been advocating for COVID-19 vaccination, and for his church and community to get vaccinated for months now.

“I reached out to so many different people to make sure that we would be able to do a vaccination site at our church, and particularly in our community because there's hesitancy on the part of our community about taking the vaccine," said Pastor Snowden.

In January his church hosted a Pfizer vaccine drive. Last weekend, they were ready to have a Johnson and Johnson vaccine pop-up. It’s been postponed indefinitely. But if and when J&J is given the green light again, Snowden says the event will be back on. "We're definitely going to move forward with it.”

Both Sneed and Snowden acknowledge that trust in medicine and federal efforts is an issue in the Black community.

"Of course, you know that people have always kind of referred back to the Tuskegee experiment," said Snowden. "And we, you know, we combat that by saying, Listen, this vaccine is for everybody. It's not for any targeted group race or ethnicity."

Sneed has hosted over 80 small group education sessions on the vaccine for Black and minority communities. Sessions he says will be even more important when a decision is made on Johnson and Johnson.

"And then we need to be very transparent with every community. We need to go right back into the African American community right back into the Latin community and tell everybody the truth of what we find out," said Sneed.

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