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Although California has the lowest positivity rate in the country, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the state leads the nation in vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus, only about 25 percent of African-American Californians have been either fully or partially vaccinated, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. A recent online event hosted by California Black Media featured persons who have concerns about the substantial number of Blacks still unvaccinated and those who did not show up for their second dose.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s surgeon general, noted that vaccination is the most powerful weapon against COVID-19, but the declining hospitalization and death rates do not mean the virus is gone.

“This has always been the case with vaccines, we become the victims of our own success,” she explained, noting that vaccination rates have decreased because some feel the crisis is over.

“We have come a really long way since the beginning of this pandemic and I’m hoping Californians are feeling that sense of hope, a sense of excitement as we start getting back to doing what we missed doing for a long time,” Burker Harris said, adding that connecting with other people is good for one’s mental and physical health. “May, being Mental Health Awareness Month, I have to throw something out about that.”

“But other parts of the country are seeing surges again,” she said. “We have to maintain the progress we have achieved so far.”

The surgeon general said she received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and was grateful for one-dose convenience. Although she had some common, normal side effects—a fever and some chills as her immune system ramped up in response to the shot—she believes the benefits far outweigh the minimal risk associated with that vaccine.

Burke Harris suggests that those hesitant to take the vaccine conduct their own research and then consult with their health care provider to discuss their issues.

“As a person who had covid, I understand how harmful it is to a person’s body,” said Pastor K.W. Tulloss of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church. “Ultimately as an advocate, a person who loves our community and as a pastor who loves his people, it’s important that we rise together and push the importance of this vaccination.”

Tulloss, who also serves as the president of the Baptist Ministers Conference, believes that more word of mouth stressing the importance of vaccinations is needed from the community and local churches.

“We have lost loved ones, the community is not where it was,” Tullos continued. “You don’t have to be afraid. I really believe that we can get to some form of normalcy again.”

Tulloss said that instead of trying to fight false information and conspiracy theories, he tries to highlight valid information about the vaccine from reliable sources.

“Our community has been ravished and harmed,” Tulloss said. “We have to help them understand that this vaccine is designed to save lives.”

The City of Los Angeles is now offering the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment for any LA County residents age 16 and up. Vaccines are free, no health insurance is needed. visit http://coronavirus.lacity.org/vaxalert for locations and hours. or all (833) 540-0473 from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for additional information. Vaccinators can come to homebound persons, phone (833) 422-4255 or visit Covid19.ca.gov.