NSU Spartans respond to two public health threats: racism and the coronavirus

COVID-19 Vaccine

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The head of the Centers for Disease Control has raised awareness about a serious public health threat: racism.

In a recent statement posted on the CDC website, Dr. Rochelle Walensky sounded the alarm about how systemic racism for decades has taken a toll on minorities in America.

FILE – In this June 19, 2020, file photo, people demonstrate in Chicago, to mark Juneteenth. A national coalition of labor unions, along with racial and social justice organizations, will stage a mass walkout from work July 20, as part of an ongoing reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

The pandemic has exposed how the epidemic of racism set the stage for disproportionate case counts and deaths from COVID-19 for brown and Black people. According to the CDC, American Indian or Alaska Native people had a COVID-19 hospitalization rate about 5.3 times that of white Americans. Hospitalization rates among Black and Latino Americans were about 4.7 times the rate of those who are white.

The nation has three vaccines that can save lives but many minorities are still hesitant to get that shot in the arm because of the nation’s long history of racism in medicine.

According to the Virginia Department of health, as of April 9, across the state, just under 66% of white people, but only 14% of Black people and just under 9% of Latino people, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Nursing students from Norfolk State University are on the front lines helping other minorities put up a fight against the deadly coronavirus.

Through most of April, they are on duty at the FEMA mass vaccination clinic at the former Macy’s department store in Military Circle Mall. They have also been on the front lines at Ivy Baptist Church in Newport News.

(Photo: Regina Mobley/WAVY)

Sporting school colors, green and gold, they are assisting by serving as medical scribes, medical monitors, and by actually putting shots in arms. They even put shots in each other’s arms in a public display to encourage other minorities to get the coronavirus vaccine.

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

“I see people who aren’t really comfortable. We do see a lot of hesitancy in the community and they are still hesitant to come back and get the second dose,” said university senior Brianna Gray.

Classmate Joelle Rawlins says their presence brings comfort.

“A patient actually said they were glad and happy to see us there as Black nurses giving the vaccines. I got vaccinated there, so them seeing that, shows that it [the vaccination] is important.,” she said.

The class of 2021 is ready for the challenge.

“I feel confident and ready,” said nursing senior Unique Miller.

The students will get their bachelor of science degrees in July to enter a field that desperately needs them. It’s estimated nursing shortages will increase to more than half a million by 2026.

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