By Derrick Johnson
Entertainers ranging from hip-hop artists “Offset” and Nicki Minaj, to noted Black Panther film actress Leticia Wright, R&B singer “Tank,” conservative political pundit Candace Owens and others have made inaccurate, disparaging public comments recently about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines or getting vaccinated, influencing some of their fans and followers to debate the science and guidance.
The inherent confusion complicates efforts to get reliable information to communities of color, but the NAACP, the nation’s largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization, has continued to clear the air with its ongoing national ‘COVID. KNOW MORE’ initiative. One of the key battles against COVID-19 in our Black communities is winning the information war.
We’re still in the trenches, fighting with facts and working to deliver reliable, up-to-date, trustworthy information enabling the vulnerable and unvaccinated to make the most well-informed decisions. But there’s more work, considerably more work.
Of course, the nation’s war against the pandemic is far from won, and things may get worse, before they get better.
Despite seeing some early signs of hope with 182 million Americans now fully vaccinated, the coronavirus has roared back to life over the past quarter, wreaking havoc on lives and families in declared hot spots including Missouri, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and Florida.
Two-thirds of Black Americans reside in the hard-hit southern U.S. The only good news is that although there remains some resistance among the unvaccinated, there’s also more willingness to get vaccinated today—especially in the south.
‘COVID. KNOW MORE’ was developed to provide Black Americans with comprehensive, relevant data and resources on COVID-19, with the goal of empowering Black America’s navigation through the pandemic toward a full recovery. It’s a formidable journey, but through ‘COVID. KNOW MORE’ individuals, families and communities of color have access to the most current, well-researched and credible facts they need to make the best possible choices for their wellbeing.
Among the latest facts: Proprietary research commissioned by the NAACP reveals that although half of the Black American community is fully vaccinated and hopeful about returning to normalcy soon, three out of five, or 62%, believe “the worst is yet to come,” up dramatically from 23% reported in June.
The NAACP’s data further reports that 50 percent of Black Americans fear cases of COVID-19 rising again later this year, an increase from just 29%, and there is justifiable concern about the new variants potentially being more contagious or deadly.
Interestingly, the numbers underscore that the unvaccinated are more worried about the Delta variant than either the government’s accelerated approval process, or the potential physical effects of the vaccine. A full 68% of Blacks express concern about the potential spread of the new COVID strains—more so than their possible side effects.
The NAACP’s ‘COVID. KNOW MORE’ builds upon the wealth of information it consistently services to the African American community, while emphasizing the pandemic’s foreboding long term implications and systemic disparities. ‘COVID. KNOW MORE’ features a multifaceted, user-friendly online information hub housing an array of options designed to help African Americans’ stay current with the ever-changing data and guidance about the pandemic.
Each of us as Americans is free to get our information from whatever sources we choose, trust and respect, but it’s especially dangerous to post and share misinformation casually across social media about such a serious issue, when the human cost in the end can be so high. Our community needs to pay close attention to the most reliable COVID-19 resources now, so Black America isn’t doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, tomorrow.
Derrick Johnson is national NAACP president and CEO