Roslyn Young-Daniels Founder & President Black Health Matters

August is National Immunization Month, a time that highlights the importance of vaccinations for all ages. As children get ready for back to head back to school this month, health officials are reminding families to make sure their children are up to date on all required and recommended vaccines.

According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, nearly 25 million children worldwide missed their childhood immunization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the Centers for Disease Control says U.S childhood immunization rates dropped to 94% from 95% during the 2020-2021 school year. That means thousands of children are at risk to be exposed to certain diseases. This could also potentially lead to a resurgence of previously controlled diseases.

On Saturday, August 6, the Black Health Matters {BHM) Summit and Health Fair will bring vaccine education to Houston at The Kingdom Builder’s Center.

This is an award-winning free hybrid event [in-person and virtual] will gather some of the nation’s top health professionals dedicated to improving the quality of Black health.

The Defender spoke with Roslyn Young-Daniels, Founder and President of Black Health Matters to talk about the Black vaccine hesitancy and the goals of the BHM Summit and Health Fair.

Defender: How did the creation of the Black Health Summit begin?

Young-Daniels: I started Black Health Matters more than 10 years ago. More than one year prior to the Black Lives Matter movement. The reason I launched it was because the Affordable Care Act was passed. I thought that was an important moment in the nation’s history. So many people in my family died too soon and all could have been preventable. We need to normalize going to the doctors regularly, and express our concern because you have a right to healthcare.

Defender: What will the community take away from the Black Health Summit?

Young-Daniels: I’ve attended a lot of medical events, and then I thought to myself, what if I could build something that would allow Black folks to have access to doctors who can help our community take more responsibility for our health? To help modify the risk factors, talk about treatments that are available, update us about what’s happening in the world of science? I would create an environment where health is key.  The summit has 10 sessions. We cover topics like Shingles, heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, postpartum depression, mental health and others that are of interest to the Black community.

Defender: Why are routine vaccines rates still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels especially among minority communities?

Young-Daniels: It’s a function of mistrust. Like why do we really need this? American history showed us that African-Americans have been experimented on. We also know that often times a doctor may not ask you enough questions about your medical history to recommend that you’d be vaccinated for something like Shingles, or pneumococcal vaccine, or flu shot. So, there is an underuse of that in the Black community. I know there are people who are not convinced, but we all have to be vaccinated to be able to get an education and there isn’t enough conversation around that. It’s so politicized. People need to pull back the layers and look at the positive versus what they perceive as harm to them.

Defender: Do you see a shift with COVID-19 vaccines being a recommended part of immunization vaccines in the future?

Young-Daniels: The majority of physicians all recommend being vaccinated against COVID. Especially when you think about the fact that African Americans suffer from various comorbidities that could kill you. So now that we have the opportunity to be vaccinated, we should make every effort to do that.

Defender: What do you tell families who still don’t agree with vaccines?

Young-Daniels: You have to look at the numbers and the science. A Black woman was one of the researchers who helped lead to the discovery of the vaccine, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Some people say it’s rushed to market too soon and that’s not true. A vaccine for this type of virus was worked on long before COVID hit the United States. Science shows us there have been few reactions to COVID vaccines that would cause death. At the end of the day, people take aspirin, they take cough medicine, and those were all experimental and went through clinical trials and had to be approved by the FDA.

Defender: What other information about the Black Health Matters Summit should our readers look out for?

Young-Daniels: We’re offering free breakfast and lunch. So, you can stay and soak up all the wonderful knowledge. It will be an action-packed day. We’re going to have impactful presentations, a choir to uplift our spirits, many physicians from Houston will be present, and lots of chances to network with like-minded people. We’ve got to build a culture of health where it’s completely acceptable that Black folks spend a couple of hours understanding how they can live their best lives.

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Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...