RICHMOND, Va. -- The African American community is trailing other races when it comes to getting vaccinated.
This trend was the topic of a forum at Virginia State University on Tuesday night.
The conversation featured medical professionals and community advocates who hope to get to the heart of the issue and figure out a way to improve vaccination rates among African Americans.
The forum opened with a reference to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as a reason for the African American's general skepticism of the government and medical community.
Tuskegee was a United States government and CDC experiment on the effects of the untreated disease on poor Black men between the 1930s and 1970s.
Participants were lied to about the nature of the study. Many died and spread the disease to women who then spread it to their children during birth.
"As we look at the country's history with Black subjects, that's where you see a lot of the roots of hesitancy," Shavon Arline-Bradley, a master of public health, said.
She went on to explain why she thinks there is hesitancy. She breaks it down to bad messaging, a shaky rollout and a poor explanation of vaccine development.
"There's been research for years about the kinds of vaccines that are out there but that's not what we heard. We heard Warp Speed. You heard of that, Warp Speed. The vaccines will be done at warp speed, so I think the hesitancy is connected to the lack of messaging and not clear on how this process works," Arline-Bradley said.
Sable Nelson, an attorney and public health policy expert, also said that it may have to do more with the here and now and not so much what may have happened decades ago.
"There was just a study released by the New England Journal of Medicine that just his year, June of 2021, there was a survey done of hundreds of hospital systems across the country," Nelson said. "It showed in just the last 12 months how Black people and Brown people are being treated differently."
Another example offered by attorney and political commentator Bakari Sellers was the powerful story of doctor Susan Moore in India.
She died from COVID-19 in December 2020 following claims that the doctor treating her was dismissive of her pain and health concerns.
"We are all experts in our own lived experience and I want to empower each of you all to share your story, your own story and that's what's gonna turn hearts and minds of those who haven't been vaccinated," Nelson said.
This is just the first of six forums that VSU has planned on this issue.