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February 03, 2021

By Gary A. Puckrein, PhD

For Immediate Release

3 February 2021 | Washington, DC

National Health Experts Discuss Black Americans and the COVID-19 Vaccine at Town Hall

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), in honorary partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust, NAACP, National Urban League and Pro Football Hall of Fame, held a virtual Town Hall on Monday, January 25th, to discuss “Black Americans & The COVID-19 Vaccine.” 

More than 700 people registered for the event, which centered around Black Americans’ distrust of the vaccines and therapies available for COVID-19. Before the start of the program, Mia Keeys, M.A., DrPH(c), of the American Medical Association who co-moderated the event, polled attendees, asking, “Do you have any apprehension about taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available?” 56% responded “no,” 28% responded “yes,” and 16% “need more information,” indicating some apprehension from almost half of the participants (236 polled) . After hearing details about the vaccine from the expert panelists during the town hall,  the poll question was asked a second time: 77% of attendees said “no,” they did not have apprehension, 13% “yes”, and 12% responded that they would be seeking more information (174 polled). This increase in openness to receive the vaccine after hearing from the panelists highlights how trusted messengers can help overcome vaccine hesitancy in the African American community.

“As leaders, I feel like it’s our collective responsibility to make sure that we leverage our platforms, our position, and our power to make sure that historically underserved communities who are already on the margins, don’t suffer even greater disparities and unnecessary death as a result of the pandemic,” said Pfizer’s Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., “I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, and he says, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’”

Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., President and CEO at NMQF, said data can help.

“At the National Minority Quality Forum, we have always believed in data-driven solutions to build sustainable healthy communities. The data that we have analyzed lets us know that vaccines and therapies are good for lower risks and contracting COVID-19.”

The Honorable Rep. Dr. Robin Kelly said she understands why people have this hesitancy, “but things have improved.”

“If we’re going to stop this virus, we will need as many people as possible to participate in getting the vaccine. And we will be making sure that the vaccine is distributed equitably so that you can get the vaccine.”

Marc H. Morial, J.D., President and CEO of the National Urban League, and former Mayor of New Orleans, agrees.

“We have to beat this. We have to get beyond this. It’s placed us in a situation where some 20% of our children have dropped out of their learning experience because of their inability to navigate in a virtual environment. And the pain and the difficulty and the challenges are great,” he said. “A pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice. So, we must work and we must fight.”

Derrick Johnson, J.D., President and CEO of NAACP, said when speaking about the COVID-19 relief package, “Those who are most susceptible of contracting as virus, whether they are critical workers or vulnerable because of health elements, or the fact that they have been left out of the true economic picture of this nation, we’ve got to make sure there’s a prioritization for those communities.”

Dr. C. Reynold Verret is the President of Xavier University of Louisiana, which produces the more Black clinicians than any other U.S. educational institution, said, “It’s not just an emergency, it’s a catastrophe and that it is important that our populations will be protected and the vaccine is a solution and the vaccine has been tested very well.” Dr. Verret continued, “The safety and efficacy has been tested and there’s reason to say, not only do you take the vaccine to protect yourself, protect everybody else around you as well.”

Those who contributed to the Town Hall were: 


Mia Keeys, M.A., DrPH(c), The American Medical Association

Darrell Green, B.A., Pro Football Hall of Fame


The Honorable Rep. Dr. Robin Kelly, Ph.D. (IL-02), CBC Health Braintrust

Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., NMQF

Marc H. Morial, J.D., The National Urban League

Derrick Johnson, J.D., NAACP


Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., Pfizer

C. Reynold Verret, Ph.D., Xavier University of Louisiana

Debbie Chatman Bryant, DNP, R.N., FAAN, The Medical University of South Carolina

Gloria Wilder, M.D., MPH, Centene Corporation

Akilah Jefferson Shah, M.D., M.Sc., The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

If you missed the event, you can tune into our live replay Feb. 3 on Periscope via Twitter and Facebook Live at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT. Or, watch the Town Hall replay on YouTube.

Download the Full Press Release


About the National Minority Quality Forum

The National Minority Quality Forum assists health care providers, professionals, administrators, researchers, policymakers, and community and faith-based organizations in delivering appropriate health care to minority communities. This assistance is based on providing the evidence in the form of science, research, and analysis that will lead to the effective organization and management of system resources to improve the quality and safety of health care for the entire population of the U.S., including minorities. For more information, please visit

Media Contact
Kelly Ann Collins 

About the NAACP

Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. The NAACP is a c4 organization and has a partner c3 organization known as NAACP Empowerment Programs. There are over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. The NAACP’s mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.

About National Urban League

Founded in 1910 and headquartered in New York City, the National Urban League spearheads the efforts of its local affiliates through the development of programs, public policy research, and advocacy. NUL has the mission of enabling and empowering African-Americans and others in underserved communities to achieve their highest human potential and secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights. NUL promotes economic empowerment through program areas that include education and job training, housing and community development, workforce development, entrepreneurship, health and quality of life. Today, NUL has 90 affiliates serving 300 communities in 37 states and the District of Columbia, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than two million people nationwide.

About the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Located in Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of the National Football League, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit institution with the Mission to Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values, & Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). AAM accreditation is national recognition for the museum’s commitment to excellence and the highest professional standards of museum operation and public service. Hundreds of thousands of fans from across the globe travel to Canton annually to experience “The Most Inspiring Place on Earth!” that chronicles America’s most popular sport. Fans can also enjoy the Hall of Fame Store at the Hall, and online at, for merchandise from all 32 NFL clubs plus the Hall of Fame. Proceeds from the Store support the Hall’s Mission. Construction on Hall of Fame Village Powered by Johnson Controls, a mixed-use development project, is under way in Canton to transform the Hall of Fame’s campus.