Surgeon General, experts discuss COVID-19 vaccine progress in Asian American communities

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, at the June 10, 2021, press briefing for Asian American media for the public education campaign We Can Do This, to increase public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. Photo: courtesy TDW+Co
Vaccine researcher Dr. Purvi Parikh of NYU Langone Health, participated in a June 10, 2021 press briefing for Asian American,Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander media led by Surgeon General
Dr. Vivek Murthy. Photo: courtesy TDW+Co

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy along with Indian-American vaccine researcher Dr. Purvi of NYU Langone Health, as well as other experts, participated in a June 10, 2021 virtual press conference as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s We Can Do This public education campaign.

The campaign aims to increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and encourage vaccination. It was organized by TDW+Co, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and reached out to Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) media.

During the virtual event, medical experts from various states provided their pandemic experiences, as well as up-to-date, trusted COVID-19 vaccine information.

Special speakers included: Vice Admiral Murthy; Lieutenant Adelaida M. Rosario, PhD, Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and local doctors including allergist, immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh, of the Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill who is also a vaccine researcher with NYU Langone Health based in New York.

Lieutenant Dr. Adelaide M. Rosario of the Office of Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who along with Dr. Purvi Parikh, was part of the discussion
in the South Asian panel.

In the live Q&A session, the medical experts answered questions about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, health inequities for AANHPIs, and how to stay safe and protected from the coronavirus to prevent further spread.

As of June 10, the CDC reported 172 million people living in the United States are now fully vaccinated. Among this number, at least 6.1% of Asians (non-Hispanic) and 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups have had at least one vaccination, which is an estimated 6.26 million people.

“More than 300 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the United States alone. That constitutes a tremendous amount of experience with the vaccine,” Dr. Murthy is quoted saying in a press release from TDW+Co. “And what we’ve seen is two things from all this experience. One, the vaccines remain remarkably effective in preventing COVID. And two, they also retain a very strong safety profile,” Dr. Murthy added.

While many in the AANHPI communities face unique challenges during the pandemic, Dr. Parikh noted that South Asians generally are welcoming and willing to get the vaccines.

“The good news is South Asians overwhelmingly want to get vaccinated and do get vaccinated,” said Dr. Parikh. “So many healthcare workers are South Asian, so we’ve seen firsthand the death and destruction from this virus.  And remember, South Asians are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 and deaths from severe COVID-19 because we have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and those are all big risk factors,” Dr. Parikh noted.

She also emphasized the need to get children vaccinated now that everyone above the age of 12 is eligible to get it.

“Children should get the vaccine because they are not immune or protected like we first thought in the early days of the pandemic,” Dr. Parikh emphasized. “One in five coronavirus infections are in pediatrics. And as kids go back to school, we don’t want them to fall ill or be compromised. They should get vaccinated so that we can protect them from getting sick and inadvertently passing the infection on to one of their older family members who may be more vulnerable.”

When asked about those who have only received the first dose of the vaccine, Dr. Parikh strongly recommended they get the second shot. “The sooner they do that, the sooner they’re protecting themselves, the sooner they are protecting their loved ones and family, and the sooner we as a whole global community can move past this pandemic,” she said.  “In the history of time, there has not been a single infectious disease that has reached herd immunity without full vaccination. So, it’s very important to get that second shot.”

Tim Wang of TDW+Co which organized the press briefing for Asian American media for the public education campaign We Can Do This. Photo: courtesy TDW+Co

Some of the other AANHPI communities face special challenges relating to COVID-19, including obtaining information about disease and the availability of the vaccines, due to language barriers, a low level of familiarity with computer technology, misinformation, and a misunderstanding of the vaccines or the science behind the vaccines, the press release said.

“As a scientist, the lack of disaggregated data about AANHPI populations concerns me the most,” said Dr. Rosario. “The lack of data specific to our diverse populations hide some inequities caused by socioeconomics, health, and access. As a result, our communities are unaccounted for and feel invisible.”

In addition to Dr. Parikh leading this briefing for South Asian media partners, other sessions were led by Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and Vietnamese physicians from around the country who provided relevant, fact-based information to address the concerns of their respective communities and increase awareness of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, the press release said.





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