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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The data is shocking. African Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it.

On Wednesday, community leaders gathered at the State Capitol to sound the alarm.

“I am calling on the talented public health leaders across this state to increase this outreach effort to reassure people of color that the vaccine is safe,” said State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City.

Lowe went on to say, “A mere three percent of African Americans have received the completed series of the vaccine. As compared to 70 percent of their white counterparts.”

There are many reasons why that’s the case, including distrust of public health initiatives from decades ago, such as the Tuskegee Study, where African American men were basically tricked into being used as human Guinea pigs and ended up dying from medical experiments.

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Rep. Jason Lowe

Black medical professionals are assuring the community the vaccine is safe and desperately needed.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, get signed up,” said Dr. Christopher Harris with OU Medical. “If you have questions, contact me. I can help you get signed up and I can answer any other questions you might have.”

And religious leaders are calling on the faith community, not just in Oklahoma City but across the state, to help with the crisis in the African American community.

“We need to unite together and become one in seeing that all of the citizens of our state receive the vaccine,” said Dr. J.A. Reed, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

He’s calling on more churches and community centers to spread the message and be used for vaccination sites “in order to vaccinate equally,” the pastor said.