HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont received his first COVID-19 vaccination shot Tuesday and joined with Black leaders to urge people of color to get vaccinated, as data show inoculation rates among minorities are much lower than those of whites.
The 67-year-old Democratic governor became eligible for the vaccine under the state’s rules last week, when vaccinations opened up to people 65 and older. He received his first shot at The First Cathedral church in Bloomfield.
“That’s easy. Nothing to be afraid of,” Lamont said after getting the shot. His wife, Annie, isn’t eligible to be vaccinated yet, as she turns 65 later this year.
Earlier, Lamont held a news conference with Black political, religious and medical community leaders including state Chief Justice Richard Robinson, state Treasurer Shawn Wood, state Rep. Bobby Gibson and Archbishop LeRoy Bailey Jr. of The First Cathedral.
They tried to reassure people that the vaccine is safe and pleaded with them to get shots, amid skepticism of the vaccine and a long-held distrust in the medical community by many Black and Latino residents. That distrust in the government and the medical community is often linked to the Tuskegee experiment, in which Black men in Alabama were left untreated for syphilis as part of a study that ran from the 1930s into the ‘70s.
“In order for us to reach population immunity, we need to have about 75% of the population to get vaccinations. They cannot do it without people of color,” Robinson said. “There are reasons for African Americans to distrust, but there are also reasons for African Americans to trust.”
Robinson noted that a Black scientist, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, helped develop the Moderna vaccine.
Wooden said his family had a large gathering on Zoom during Thanksgiving, and he was shocked when only a few of them raised their hands to indicate they were willing to take the vaccine.
“It is the health care system that has not been equitable, that’s not been just,” the Democratic treasurer said. “There is a reason why we don’t trust the system. But that is not the reason why we shirk our responsibility now as leaders to stand up with what we know about this vaccine, about how safe it is, about the studies, about the results.”
Lamont said the state is stepping up its efforts to get minorities vaccinated and bridge the racial divide, including working with Black churches and sending dozens of mobile vaccination teams into underserved communities.
“We found in testing, just like in vaccinations, you got to bring the vaccine to where people are, where they feel comfortable, where they see their neighbors getting vaccinated,” the governor said.
Limited data released by state health officials last week suggests racial disparities in vaccinations in Connecticut, similar to disparities in other states.
As of Feb. 3, nearly 2% of Connecticut residents age 75 years and older who received the vaccine were Black, 2.3% were Hispanic and nearly 60% were white. U.S. Census data shows the state’s population is about 67% white, 11% Black and 17% Hispanic.
The state’s cities, where much of the minority populations live, are also seeing lower vaccination rates than wealthier, and whiter suburbs.