Dr. Anthony Fauci and University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel advocated for vaccination as the safest, most effective way to end the coronavirus pandemic during a talk Monday at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition annual convention.
Focusing on minority communities, which have seen vaccination rates lagging behind rates of white Americans, Fauci and Emanuel countered disinformation about the efficacy of the vaccines and reminded viewers the vaccine is free.
“We’re facing … one of the most historic pandemic outbreaks that we’ve ever experienced on this planet,” Fauci said, adding that there has not been anything like the COVID-19 pandemic “in the last 100 years.”
He used his own research on the 2002 SARS outbreak in China and the 2012 MERS outbreak in the Middle East for comparison.
“The United States has been hit as hard — or more hard — than any other country in the world,” Fauci said. “Between the United States, Brazil and India, we are in the top few with over 33 million cases and now tragically over 600,000 deaths.”
Fauci explained that the National Institutes of Health has a “multifaceted” research agenda for ending the pandemic, with steps that include therapeutics, diagnostics and, most importantly, vaccines. He called the vaccines a “resounding success story.”
“What we’re dealing with right now is literally a metaphorical race between the SARS-CoV-2 virus ... and our ability and capability of vaccinating individuals with our highly effective vaccines,” Fauci said. “I don’t mean only in the United States, but ultimately worldwide because this is a global pandemic that requires a global response.”
Emanuel, a brother of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, highlighted four distinct barriers to vaccinations: disinformation, access issues, financial issues and attitudinal issues — all of which disproportionately affect Black Americans and other minorities.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 28.2% of Black Americans have received one dose of the vaccine and only 25% are fully vaccinated. Comparatively, 35.1% of whites have received one dose and 33.5% are fully vaccinated.
Emanuel said Americans “have to be honest” about the disadvantage Black Americans and other minorities face in regard to health care.
Black Americans have lower rates of insurance, higher rates of diabetes and hypertension and higher rates of death from heart disease and cancer. These disadvantages culminate in a lower life expectancy.
During the pandemic, Black Americans have been hospitalized at nearly three times the rate as white Americans and with two times more deaths. Emanuel said that as a result, the difference in life expectancy has expanded to six years between whites and Black Americans.
“We have to get people who have been vaccinated out to convince their fellow community members that the vaccine is safe,” Emanuel said. “Getting the vaccine is the key way to beat COVID. It allows all of us to get back to our normal life without a mask, with our families and with safety.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.