Black In Business: How COVID-19 Vaccines Could Help Black-Owned Businesses

On March 11, 2020, the world stopped spinning. Within a span of 24 hours, the NBA season came to a screeching halt, Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19, and the country shut down. Over the next few weeks, thousands tested positive for COVID-19 and many died. Those who survived dealt with the economic toll of businesses shutting down and stocks falling. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment, many struggled to pay rent, and others were evicted from their homes. Nearly a year later, many things have stayed the same. Millions of Americans are still struggling, but there is a faint glimmer of hope - coronavirus vaccines.

Throughout the country, there is hope that the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines will slowly help get things back to normal. With Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines available across the country, 25.5 million Americans have been vaccinated. At first glance, this appears to be a major improvement and it is. However, it is not as much of an improvement as many think. In the United States, less than 8% of Americans have been fully vaccinated. Outside of the United States, things are even worse. Worldwide, less than 1% of people have been fully vaccinated. Simply put, there is still a long way to go.

As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines continues, many businesses, large and small, have pitched in. From Starbucks to Walgreens, businesses are offering manpower and logistical support to assist medical professionals. The quicker life can get back to normal, the sooner businesses can begin to rebuild.

While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, Black proprietors were hit the hardest during the early stages of the pandemic. As previously reported, the number of active Black business owners fell by 22% from February 2020 to April 2020. Further research shows that more than 40% of Black-owned businesses may not reopen when things return to the new normal. For the Black-owned business owners that remain, COVID-19 vaccine distribution is pivotal for their economic revival.

In an effort to inform customers about the vaccine, several Black-owned businesses across the Columbia, Missouri area invited medical students to talk about the vaccine. From discussing the different types of vaccines to addressing myths pertaining to the vaccine, medical students hope they can assist in the revival of Black communities.

“I think right now is a very important time to have these conversations," third-year medical student Abdoulie Njai told KCRG.

"One thing that’s been going around is vaccine hesitancy in the black community, and I think the only way to truly address that is by going into the community and to meet people where there are and having frank conversations with those people where we’re able to hear those questions and concerns.”

Despite their efforts, Black entrepreneurs and medical professionals face a common enemy, skepticism. Many believe that Black Americans are oftentimes hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to past catastrophes like the Tuskegee Experiment. While the Tuskegee Experiment does play a role in creating skepticism toward the COVID-19 vaccine, the issue is much deeper than that. For decades, Black Americans have experienced racism within the nation's healthcare system. A recent study from ESPN's The Undefeated and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that seven out of ten Black Americans felt that patients were "treated unfairly based on race or ethnicity when they seek medical care."

“We have a centuries-long legacy in this country of basically Black people, in particular, and other people of color as well, being treated poorly,” Dr. Lisa A. Cooper of Johns Hopkins University added to the study.

“So why should Black people trust any institution? It has gone on for so long.”

In an effort to address these concerns. federal lawmakers Elizabeth Warren, Ayanna Pressley and Barbara Lee have introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2021. If passed, the bill would create a National Center for Anti-Racism within the CDC and develop a law enforcement violence prevention program within the National Center for Injury Prevention. While the bill has the support of three dozen lawmakers, it is far from a complete solution. Trust has to be rebuilt over time and unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made time a scarce resource.

In spite of the uphill battle that many Black business owners face within their workplaces and the healthcare system, they remain hopeful. A recent report from the Bank of America found that roughly 50% of business owners are confident they'll see an increase in revenue. Furthermore, nearly 25% of Black business owners believe they'll be able to hire more employees this year as well. To top it all off, there was a 2% increase in the number of Black-owned businesses from February 2020 to fall 2020.

“I’m super excited for what’s ahead,” Donny Harper of Go(o)d Company Apparel said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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