By, Dr. Oliver Brooks, President and Chairman Multicultural Health Foundation

Despite vigorous efforts across the state to encourage all Californians to get vaccinated – from community and faith leaders, to medical professionals – California’s Black population continue to have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates compared to other populations in the state. 

Yet Black Americans continue to fall victim to COVID-19 more than any other population – being twice as likely as Latinos and three times as likely as white and Asian Americans to die from complications of the virus.  Just in Los Angeles County, Black residents account for more than 13 percent of the region’s total number of deaths even though they make up only 8 percent of the total population.

When Black people are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other demographic, why are we not stepping up to help protect ourselves and our loved ones by getting vaccinated?

Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting vaccinated, but haven’t been ready.  You have a lot of questions, and that’s ok.  The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that 43 percent of Black Americans are taking the “wait and see” approach to getting vaccinated, and only 35 percent said they would get it or already have been vaccinated.

But now is the time for Californians who have waited to get vaccinated to get their shot – before June 15 arrives when the state fully reopens – so they, too have the comfort in knowing they are protected by the safe and highly-effective COVID-19 vaccine.

The timing couldn’t be better.  With the goal to make every single shot count and give that extra nudge for folks to get vaccinated, Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced the launch of “Vax for the Win,” an incentive program  for the next two million Californians who complete their COVID-19 vaccination process will be eligible to receive a $50 gift card. All vaccinated Californians will also have a chance to win $50,000 on the first two Fridays in June or the grand prize of $1.5 million on June 15.

As a medical doctor, I embraced the opportunity to do my part and get vaccinated when it was my turn.  Clinical trials have proven the vaccine is safe and now can protect young people 12 years old and up from severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 – which is much worse than the minor side effects of the vaccination.

My experience was simple and easy. The shot itself is nearly painless. And most people who get vaccinated may only experience side effects such as fatigue, a sore arm, or fever. These are entirely normal and indicators that the body is building immunity to the virus.  This is a good thing.

The technology used to produce the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has been developed over the past 10 years – it is not new. It does not change our DNA, nor does it contain any COVID-19 virus.

Finally, the COVID-19 vaccine is free to everyone.  Regardless if you’re undocumented or are without health insurance. Your immigration status will not be asked when you or your child is vaccinated, and information will not be shared with immigration agencies. 

By getting ourselves vaccinated, and now our 12 to 15 year olds, we can change this racial disparity in our Black communities and reach the vaccination rates that are critical to achieving broader population immunity – allowing more African Americans protection from the virus.

Parents and guardians can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines at VaccinateAll58.com and check vaccine availability and book appointments through My Turn or call California’s COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255. You can also call your family doctor, local community health clinic or public health office for more information.

This pandemic is not over yet.  As more eligible Black Californians get vaccinated, we will continue to stop the spread and shrink the pool of our people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.  Every shot matters.