PITTSBURGH — As we are getting closer to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in Pittsburgh, a local pastor is making it his mission to go door-to-door in minority communities to inform people about the vaccine, and help them form trust in the government.
“There is a great deal of mistrust with the government because government systems have widely failed communities of color,” said Rev. Paul Abernathy, CEO of the Neighborhood Resiliency Project. “Even as this pandemic has happened, we are seeing very clearly how government systems have failed in the context of Covid-19.”
The Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP has said there is a lack of personal protective equipment and Covid-19 testing in minority communities, and studies show black Americans are 20% less likely to get the vaccine than other populations.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Abernathy said. “Not just about Covid-19, but in repairing relations, restoring relations with the government overall.”
High unemployment in minority communities is also a concern for Abernathy, and a local labor attorney warns that employers can require workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have a religious reason or a disability.
“As a general rule, a person who works in a store an office would have to abide by that rule and if they didn’t, an employer could take action or the employee could quit,” said attorney Sam Cordes.
That would include hospital employees, though UPMC announced Tuesday it will not mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for employees the way the company does for the flu vaccine.
“I do believe that there will be many in our communities who are not going to want to receive this vaccine and I would imagine there is going to choose unemployment over receiving a vaccine,” Abernathy said. “We mustn’t blame people for their mistrust we must acknowledge that it’s rooted in historical fact and personal experience. We have to honor that and recognize it.”
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