Spectrum Health hosts panel to encourage vaccine confidence in minority areas

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Spectrum Health hosted a panel Friday with both healthcare workers and activists from Benton Harbor on how to build trust with the vaccine.

This comes one week after Dr. Don Tynes with the Benton Harbor Health Center - which is independent of Spectrum Health - released a video questioning the vaccine’s legitimacy.

“You understand that you are volunteering to be part of a great experiment with receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, using messenger RNA and DNA to take over the human body and make it produce antibodies,” said Dr. Tynes.

Both Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Berrien County Health Department have since debunked many of those claims in statements, but today was the first time since that Spectrum was able to host community members to discuss the bigger issue - distrust between black and brown communities and the healthcare system.

“We have to change this narrative from being that black and brown communities don’t trust us, to we have violated the trust of those communities,” said Bernice Patterson, PhD, Clinic Supervisor at the Spectrum Health Lakeland Center for Better Health.

Five panelists represented the black and brown community and were all at different stages of their confidence in the vaccine.

Benton Harbor school board member Reinaldo Tripplett referenced the recent video from Dr. Tynes making accusations of rumored side effects to the vaccine.

“I was on Facebook one day, I was ready to do the work to find out when I would be able to do it and then I saw a local healthcare worker say something about someone who had died because they took it and then I’m like, ‘Wait a minute,’” said Tripplett.

Dr. Tynes making those claims on his own Facebook page.

“It also has side effects, we know there’s been some deaths,” said Dr. Tynes.

Despite the CDC not reporting a single death from the vaccine.

Dr. Patterson urged people to check the information they’re hearing with multiple sources.

“You will spend hours researching the new phone you want to buy, but you think that just checking out a couple Facebook posts is all the research you need to do to figure out if this vaccine is good,” said Patterson.

Meanwhile, some in Benton Harbor worked together on a new music video encouraging continued diligence in fighting the virus.

Music video producer Traci Burton said this messaging might not work for everyone, but for Benton Harbor, it can help restore confidence.

“49022 youth and adults voices were not being heard or represented accurately, we can’t just have a blanket COVID-19 message,” said Burton.

Following Dr. Tynes’s Facebook video last week, Spectrum Health and the Berrien County Health Department provided the following statements to ABC57.

On behalf of John Froggatt, MD, vice president medical affairs, Spectrum Health Lakeland

Vaccines have been the bedrock of public health for decades, preventing infection, stopping outbreaks of disease and saving lives. We encourage the use of vaccines because the scientific data shows vaccination can improve the health of the community and save lives. Vaccines work by tricking the immune system to fight off an infection. They do this in different ways. Some use weakened versions of the virus that are unable to cause illness (chicken pox and measles); some use dead virus (influenza). The COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA messaging to trigger our bodies’ cells to produce pieces of virus proteins that the immune system reacts to, protecting us from infection. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Nor does the vaccine mRNA affect your DNA. We understand people in our community may choose not to be vaccinated. We support their right to make that choice. While Spectrum Health encourages vaccination for its team members, the vaccine is not mandatory or a condition of employment. The choice to obtain a vaccine is up to the individual team member. Clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two-dose vaccine regimens are both highly effective at preventing illness from the virus, but it typically takes a week or two after the second dose to reach full efficacy. In addition, scientists are continuing to gather more data on how the vaccines affect transmission. It is still not well known if people who are vaccinated can be exposed to the coronavirus and become unknowing carriers. That’s why many of the measures we have in place currently including social distancing, wearing masks, and frequent hand washing will remain important for many months to come.


Berrien County Health Department

“The Berrien County Health Department understands that there are some members of our community who may still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine - from the way that the vaccine equips the immune system to fight the virus, to the potential side effects that one could experience after getting the shot. As our department has throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to providing factual, credible, and timely public information. It is important that people are able to review the science and data to make informed decisions about what will be best for themselves and their loved ones. We know that not everyone will choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine right away or even at all and we feel that it is completely appropriate for people to take some additional time to make that choice. In public health, our top priority is to decrease the morbidity and mortality due to diseases like COVID-19, using tested and verified methods to prevent illness, such as vaccination. Having reviewed the research ourselves, we firmly believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective, safe, and one of the best tools currently at our disposal to save lives, help build towards lasting herd immunity, and bring us closer to the end of this pandemic.”

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