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Doctor debunked vaccine theories as hesitancy remains among CT's BIPOC community

Some common denominators in communities of color when it comes to vaccine hesitancy theories are language barriers, vaccine hesitancy, and overall mistrust concerns.

HARTFORD, Conn. — COVID-19 booster shots are rolling out, and while Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, there are still disparities within Black and brown communities.

"Our COVID cases are not as high as even our surrounding states, but there's still more work to be done," explained Dionne Kotey, the director of wellness and health management with the Hispanic Health Council (HHC) in Hartford

She said this rings especially true in communities of color. 

"I feel like there are lots of barriers and things going around that health professionals sometimes overlook," explained Koty.

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In Hartford, 41% of Black people are fully vaccinated, while 43% of Hispanics are fully vaccinated.

This is all the more reason why the HHC's COVID-19 initiative works to promote vaccine education within communities of color.

Fernando Valenzuela is a community health worker on the front lines of this initiative. He said a few common denominators they've noticed in communities of color: language barriers, vaccine hesitancy, and overall mistrust concerns.

"The pervasive mistreatment that we've seen historically of the Black and brown communities have definitely added mistrust when it comes to getting the vaccine," said Valenzuela.

He said concerns are valid, but it's vital to listen. 

"We have to be able to understand where that's coming from and to talk to them to kind of gain trust back in this system," said Valenzuela 

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That starts with addressing some hesitancies and theories head-on. 

From long-term effects to microchips, Valenzuela said he'd heard them all.

Debunking the misconceptions

FOX61 caught up with Dr. Jessica Abrantes-Figueriudo, chief of infectious diseases at Saint Frances Hospital in Hartford, to debunk some of those theories.

Black and Hispanic people are injected with different vaccines than white people: 

"The vaccines that we currently have available Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, regardless where you get it, who you get it from, they're the same vaccines at all." 

There are microchips in the COVID-19 vaccines: 

"No microchips in the vaccine. That's a definite no! Many times, people joke that we already most of us have microchips on us, and that's our cell phones. But definitely no microchips in the vaccine." 

There are magnets in the vaccines: 

"There are no magnets in the vaccines. We have all of the ingredients. It's a very small amount of ingredients, really just the messenger RNA, for example, in the Pfizer and the Moderna. A little bit of a fat molecule, but no magnets or anything else like that in the vaccine."

The COVID-19 vaccine was created too early and was not tested on enough people of color to know the impact it will have: 

"The vaccine has been decades in the making, which has been well thought out. It was just fast-tracked because we're obviously in a pandemic. And all of the studies also did include obviously, with whites being the majority but still included a good proportion of folks in the BIPOC community."

The COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility: 

"There's been no signs to show that they cause infertility. We've also had many women, including myself who have gotten vaccinated while pregnant, and again, no indications to say that the vaccine is harmful for mom or baby."  

The booster shot was always a part of the government plan that's why there are multiple rows on a COVID card: 

" We really didn't know how many shots that people would have would need, you know, the one-shot the two shots and now we have people needing the three shots or the booster it may be that we need the three, and we're done. Again with everything sometimes changing the variance etc. that's still to be held. But, definitely, something that we didn't know from the beginning."

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Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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