Only 14 percent of people who have so far registered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Bermuda are from the island’s majority-black community, according to government officials.
Premier David Burt says the government must do more to target pockets of “vaccine hesitancy” when promoting the benefits of the drug.
The Government has obtained data on race from 6,647 of the 7,729 people who have registered to take the vaccine in the last two weeks. Of that figure, just 1,082 people – 14 percent – are black, while whites make up 63 percent. Nine percent said they were mixed/other and 14 percent did not state their race.
Health Minister Kim Wilson revealed that earlier surveys had suggested members of the black community were reluctant to take the vaccine.
“When we did the omnibus survey in November, we noticed there was a higher percentage of persons within the black community that were expressing vaccine hesitancy and not wishing to be vaccinated certainly not in the initial stages.
“Part of the collection of that data is so that we can effectively see how our messaging needs to be developed. Do we need to go into the black community, the churches, and other organizations to try to encourage persons to become vaccinated? Because we want to get to herd immunity and that requires 60 to 70 percent of our population.”
Burt added: “It’s a complex legacy issue. Black people are distrustful of medicine for good reason.
“Black people have been used over history for experiments – as recently in America as the 1970s, where low-income black women were given unwanted sterilizations. That is historical.
“But the real challenge I have with that is that it is understood and noticed. In Bermuda we just go along with ‘black person’ but in America, they go with ‘communities of colour’ and that’s the language that they use.
“But the fact is we have seen – whether it is in regard to our death numbers or in regard to the persons who are more likely to be impacted by the coronavirus – we see that, without question, those persons are predominantly persons who are black or, as they say in America ‘communities of colour’.
“Those are the persons who in the exact same way are hesitant to take the vaccine which will actually protect them.
“Vaccines are a marvel of science. To have vaccines that are proven to be 95 percent safe and effective is a marvel of science.
“And I also do know that there will be persons who do not get vaccinated, and the persons who do not get vaccinated will be at risk. And some of those persons who do not get vaccinated, they will catch the virus, their family members will catch the virus and some may even succumb to the illness.
“It is a difficult thing. We are going to be real and honest – I think that’s the communication that the public want and deserve from their leaders and we’re going to continue on that path.
“We are going to continue to encourage all segments of the community, but especially focus our message on places where there is vaccine hesitancy, as it’s important to get those numbers up.”
Since March of last year, Bermuda, with a population of around 64,000, has recorded 684 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 among almost 160,000 tests. Twelve people have died as a result of the virus.