Community-based Strategies to Engage Pastors Can Help Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Health Disparities in Black Communities

Lois Privor-Dumm, Terris King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an era of Freddie Gray and Black Lives Matter, a long history of structural racism, combined with disproportionate rates of COVID-19, the African American community has seen a lot of reasons to demand social justice, equal treatment and immediate access to solutions to health disparities. Despite the promise of COVID-19 vaccines, the community is highly distrustful of the vaccine and institutions given a history of mistreatment and many other current concerns. Trusted messengers such as Black pastors are crucial to protecting the community that faces a disproportionate amount of disease. We present a framework to build trust and acceptance including understanding history and context; listening and empathy; engaging pastors as trusted messengers; creating partnerships with shared responsibility and power; and co-creation of solutions with faith leaders and their community, governments and institutions to create sustainable, long-term change. Efforts to support vaccine acceptance must be customized to the variety of needs and realities of the African American community, not just the topic of concern to the institution. Evaluations are needed to help ensure the community is engaged and feeling heard. Pastors and other religious leaders can work with government and institutions to bring information, facilitate discussion, build trust and develop measurable improvement efforts. Although acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines may not be achieved overnight, the process of focusing on issues that are important to the community is an important step in laying the foundation for both COVID-19 vaccines and future interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-830
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of health communication
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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