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Vaccine crusade in Black & Brown community

“People listen to people who look like them"
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Posted at 5:56 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 17:56:30-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — There are two crusaders in Buffalo’s Black and Brown community on a mission to get people vaccinated.

“They tell me they are not hesitant — they're saying 'hell to the no’,” remarked Rev. Diann Holt, Durham Outreach Center.

Rev. Holt has been on a mission to convince community members to roll up their shelves for the COVID vaccine.

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Rev. Diann Holt, Durham Outreach Center.

She is with the Durham Outreach Center on East Eagle Street in Buffalo where she works with pregnant woman.

Recently, the CDC issued an urgent health advisory to those who are pregnant. The health agency is strongly recommending the COVID vaccine for moms-to-be before or during pregnancy, saying it would protect both the woman and baby.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, only about 25% of expecting moms got a COVID shot.

Vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women and in Black and Brown communities is a hurdle community leaders say they are fighting.

Holt say many tell her they are afraid about what's in it.

“I say what's in aspirin? What's in Tylenol? What's in the cough medicine that you take? What's in that weed that you smoke and they look at me and go you're funny. I say I’m not trying to be funny,” Holt explains.

Holt says at one point, during the pandemic, many mothers were told by some doctors they didn't need the vaccine.

But Dr. Raul Vazquez of Urban Family Practice says that has changed.

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Dr. Raul Vazquez of Urban Family Practice, in Zoom interivew.

“It’s not only good for the mom, but it's also good for the baby,” responded Dr. Vazquez. “What we've noticed is that people that weren't vaccinated, and if they're pregnant and catch COVID, they have worse outcomes — they have very worse outcomes.”

Urban Family will host a pop-up vaccine clinic with Durham this Saturday, November 20, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., 200 East Eagle Street. The gym at Durham Outreach will be transformed into a vaccine clinic for those 5 and up.

Dr. Vazquez and Rev. Holt tell me it's been an uphill battle persuading community members to get vaccinated.

“How severe is it?” Buckley asked Vazquez.

“It’s pretty bad. I think, you know, we're pushing the people that are willing to vaccinate, but you still have a good portion of people that are just still on the fence,” Dr. Vazquez explains.

“How do you convince someone to get the vaccine?" Buckley questioned.

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Dr. Raul Vazquez of Urban Family Practice, in Zoom interview.

“We try to kind of break away the myths that they have — everything they talk about — infertility — all the things talk about are true about COVID — the infection — not the vaccine,” replied Dr. Vazquez. “And I think social media has really talked about how these injections can cause you to have side-effects, that they’re putting chips in peoples bodies — this doesn’t help this whole process. I think people should be held liable for giving miss information. I’ve got individuals that that haven’t been vaccinated because the actual physicians don’t feel comfortable with recommending vaccinations — that to me is a little bit strange.”

Dr. Vazquez says education in this process is key.

“People listen to people who look like them,” remarked Rev. Holt.

That is why Holt created what she calls flash cards — COVID stories of community members — urging everyone to get vaccinated. She says these cards will be placed in businesses and shops in the inner-city.

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Rev. Diann Holt, Durham Outreach Center.

Boldly Holt says she will often tell someone refusing to get vaccinated that they have the “Jim Jones Syndrome”, a cult leader from the 70's.

“And when things did not go his way, he had them drink poison Kool-aid. By not taking the vaccine — you're refusing not a cure, but a preventive measure and you're drinking poison Kool-aid,” described Holt.