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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group of Kansas City-area medical professionals is leading an effort to persuade Black residents in the metro area to overcome their skepticism and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Kansas City’s Black Health Care Coalition and and a team of Black medical professionals are working to get information about the vaccine to about 45,000 Black residents in the region.

During a media briefing Monday, they said Blacks are concerned about the vaccine’s possible side effects and how quickly it was rolled out. They also noted many Blacks distrust the medical profession because of past controversial medical experiments that were performed on Black citizens.

One of those is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

“You’re talking about a lot of pain and hurt that occurred,” Sylvester Folks, an Alabama-based filmmaker studying the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, said. “The worst part is, every person that died from that did not know that it was because they were being withheld medicine or proper treatment.“

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment began in Macon County Alabama in 1932 and was an experiment conducted by the United States Department of Health.

Dr. Devika Maulik, at Truman Medical Center, said she understands the distrust, but is confident in this vaccine, because the studies to test its effectiveness were diverse.

“They tested about a few thousand people,” Maulik said. “About roughly 10% of both trials were people from the black community.”

Dr. Nevada Lee, of Leawood, Kansas, said Blacks are more likely to contract COVID-19 and to die from it, in part because of lack of access to medical care.

City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, president of the coalition, said Blacks also are less likely to be able to work from home or take time off work, which increases the risk of infection.

Kansas City‘s Mayor Quinton Lucas heard that message loud and clear. He received his first shot of the vaccine Friday and encouraged everyone to do the same.

“I was seeing on Facebook and social media, more and more people from my family, from the black community that I knew, were saying don’t do this, don’t trust it we can’t trust those long-term solutions,” Lucas said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The doctors said evidence has shown the vaccine to be safe. And they said the country won’t be able to defeat the pandemic unless Black citizens participate in the vaccination effort.