In an exclusive interview with Steve Harvey on the "Steve Harvey Morning Show," US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams spoke candidly about the coronavirus pandemic and the forthcoming vaccine.
Adams, who is only the second Black man to serve as Surgeon General, said he wants to ensure the truth outweighs misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting his personal experience with healthcare access.
“I talk a lot about my brother who actually has struggled with substance use disorder, “ he shared adding that his mother was hospitalized after a fall over Thanksgiving. “I know what it’s like to deal with poor health and lack of opportunity, even as surgeon general of the United States."
Adams revealed that an estimated 50% of people who are transmitting the virus are asymptomatic. “Steve, if you and I were in a room together, and one of us had a cold, the other one would know it. I could look at you and say, ‘Steve, you [aren’t] looking so good. You and I need to stay apart.’ You can’t do that with COVID,” he said.
For Black Americans, Adams says the virus and impending vaccine is a complicated matter: "To me, this is a social justice issue because people are preying on our folks with misinformation that is causing them to lose their life. So follow [CDC guidelines], get your flu shot," he said, adding "I’ve seen the data, I've worked with the companies, I’ve encouraged them to include African Americans in their trials and we’ve successfully gotten the numbers up."
Adams is working with the NFL, HBCUs, faith-based organizations, and Black fraternities and sororities to build trust, stating “a vaccine doesn’t do anything if people don’t trust it or won’t accept it.”
He understood this outreach is necessary given the tumultuous historical context of the medical field exploiting Black people. “We remember Tuskegee,” he said, acknowledging the 40-year experiment in Tuskegee, Alabama that intentionally withheld treatment for syphilis from Black men in the study.
“[We] have a right to have some distrust of certain institutions,” he added. But, he wants people to understand the “fast-tracked” vaccine doesn’t mean corners were cut. The Pfizer vaccine is being reviewed this week and could be authorized as soon as Thursday (December 10) or Friday (December 11).
“The science is solid,” he said, saying the vaccine is “absolutely safe” for people of color to take, saying that he and his family will take it when it becomes available.
Harvey even volunteered to take the vaccine on camera to support Adams’ efforts.
Surgeon General Adams’ efforts are not just to support the vaccine but to address ongoing health issues in the Black community that are impacted by the pandemic.
His call to action on Black maternal health is connected to getting the vaccine to the community. How, do you ask? “Well, we know that COVID puts you at higher risk for complications. If you’re pregnant, number one, and number two, many women aren’t getting their prenatal care because they’re scared of COVID. So these disparities are going to become even greater.” He pointed to the health scares both Beyoncé and Serena Williams had during childbirth.
“There’s something about being Black,” he said, “and we have been digging into the bias, the racism that exists in our society, but we’ve also got to arm people with the facts to do what they can to protect themselves.”
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