Alpha Phi Alpha is committed to community leadership for healthy, safe, and just communities, where all can thrive. Over the years we have contributed leadership in areas as diverse as natural disaster response, awarding scholarships to young men, promoting voter participation, and providing support to vulnerable populations including COVId-19 support to first responders and health professionals.
The COVID-19 Pandemic challenges us to be more vocal and lend our resources to address vaccine hesitancy in communities of color and the African American community specifically. Vaccine hesitancy was identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. Due to significant distrust in the African American community, there is a heightened level of vaccine hesitancy that must be addressed with greater vigor due to the effects of COVID-19. We believe a better understanding of the clinical trial process and the goals of herd immunity will help alleviate some of the concerns in our communities.
Human trials for a vaccine go through a three-phase process where in each phase volunteers are given either the vaccine or a placebo. The effectiveness and side effects of those given the vaccine is then compared to those given a placebo (usually a saline water solution). At a very high level the three phases can be described as: phase I – the first administration of a vaccine candidate to humans primarily to evaluate its safety. Phase II – assess the impact of demographic and other variables on immune response to identify the vaccine preparation, optimal dose, and schedule. Phase III – evaluates the efficacy and safety of the vaccine candidate on a large population. Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines has gone through all three phases for the clinical trial process, with over 70,000 participants and 36,000 for those received the vaccine. The clinical trial process addresses two of the main concerns of African Americans; being first and the concern regarding side effects. Before the FDA approved the current vaccines, they had been received by 36,000 people. Though the trial process can’t identify every possible side effect, because of the trial process there is quite a bit known about side effects and they can be discussed with your doctor.
The goal is to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, in this case COVID-19, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. This critical as morbidity and mortality rates in the African American community is 3 to 4 times higher. At this point we do not know enough about COVID-19 to determine what percentage of the population must have immunity to achieve herd immunity. The percentage needed varies based on the contagiousness of the disease.
However, we do know that vaccines are a key tool in reaching herd immunity. Getting there will allow our children to get back into their schools, our friends, and families to further their bonds and provide needed support, our loved ones to get proper burials to provide a sense of closure, and for other important routines, traditions, and rituals to take place. We are asking everyone in the African American community to 1) please talk to your doctor and 2) get the vaccine as soon as you can.
The Sigma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.