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Health & Science

Akron Health Summit highlights racial disparity in COVID-19 vaccination rates

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Dr. Jennifer Savitski, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, says the COVID-19 vaccination is safe, but she understands the hesitancy of some members of the Black community in getting the shot. Overcoming the hesitancy will help more members of the Black community become immunized.

Medical professionals from around Summit County touted the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine during the fifth annual Akron Health Equity Summit.

One virtual panel discussed the racial disparity between vaccination rates and COVID cases in the county.

The vaccination rate for Black Summit County residents is nearly 20% lower than white residents, according to the county’s public health department.

Dr. Jennifer Savitski, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, said the shot is safe and has been thoroughly tested.

But she understands vaccine hesitancy, especially among the county’s African American community.

“Black people have been used in scientific studies in very bad ways, have been excluded from treatment regimens intentionally. There’s no denying that," Savitski said. "And so we have to have that conversation and dispel any of those myths that currently exist to help people feel more comfortable in making that decision.”

Savitski said doctors need to focus on listening to patients concerns and opening a dialogue, rather than just focusing on convincing their patients to get vaccinated.

The COVID-19 case rate for African Americans in Summit County is nearly double that of whites.