TAMPA, Fla. — Health experts call it a “crisis within a crisis.” It's the disparities between Black and brown Americans, white Americans and the coronavirus.
“The virus is disproportionality impacting our people. We take this very seriously,” said Dr. Bartholomew Banks.
Doctors said this issue is a direct result of implicit bias within the American healthcare system. It’s an unconscious prejudice against groups of people based on a past interaction, or learned opinion.
“This is a major problem,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed, Dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy at USF.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although Black and Hispanic Americans are almost as likely to contract the virus as white Americans, Black people have nearly three times the hospitalization, and about twice the death rate. It’s even higher for Hispanics.
“That’s enough to tell you we have a particulate problem here,” said Dr. Sneed.
According to the CDC, the factors that continue for this problem are a structural component of lack of access to healthcare, social economics and lack of education.
Local health experts like Dr. Sneed have been working for years to correct the problem, but it will take a lot of work to get there.
“The entire system has been conditioned into a level of acceptance,” he said. “We’re making changes to the system that will truly allow us to move beyond this.”
One of those changes, all be small, is convincing African Americans to get the vaccine.
“There’s a lot of distrust, rightfully so,” he said. “But I’m optimistic about that as well because we are making sure everyone knows the vaccine is safe.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pilot program has helped. The program involves turning places of worship into vaccine sites for their communities.
St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church was one of those sites.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Dr. Banks.
They were able to get 600 people vaccinated.
Health experts also want to make sure everyone understands the virus and implicit bias are two separate issues.
So, while the vaccine may protect us from the virus, it will take more than that to rid our health systems of implicit bias.