'This is about people not dying': Rev. Barber endorses COVID-19 vaccine at NCDHHS 'fireside chat'

We see her almost daily during the pandemic, but Tuesday night, State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen teamed up with another famous North Carolina face to reach a segment of the population slipping through the cracks of the state vaccine roll out.

"We do not see that we are vaccinating our African American community, our Hispanic community, our Native-American community at the same rate we are vaccinating our white community," Cohen said in the first in a series of state-sponsored webinars targeted toward historically marginalized communities in North Carolina.

Rev. Dr. William Barber, the state's most well-known civil rights leader, joined the virtual fireside chat which was aimed at boosting confidence about the COVID-19 vaccine and easing skepticism in Black, brown, and indigenous communities. But, Barber also pressed the state to boost access in poor and rural communities - suggesting public health mobile units in areas with no nearby health centers and using empty churches as vaccine sites.

Barber voiced the frustrations of people who can't find out when or where to get the shot.

"My mother, for instance, who's one of the most-known senior citizens in eastern North Carolina; she's been calling for two weeks," Barber said. "I'm not advocating for my mama on this show, but I'm trying to say if my mama can't get a call back, oh Lord have mercy!"

Cohen pledged a priority toward equity and access in the vaccine rollout statewide. She also got some assistance from Barber in better the translating the science to knock down rumors that getting the shot means an injection of COVID-19.


"You are not injecting COVID into your body," Cohen told the virtual audience. "You're not getting some weakened form of COVID. It is not the virus! What it does is send a signal to your body to start developing antibodies."
Barber then chimed in, "Now what Secretary Cohen is saying, how many of y'all remember your mama's look in church. Whenever I thought about being mischievous in church, she looked at me and my mind and heart fought that thought off. That's what this vaccine does! It sends a signal to your body that this is not supposed to be here and begins to fight it off."

Barber also pushed back against the stream of misinformation and politicization over the vaccine.

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"Those of you that are distorting the truth to our people, stop it," Barber said. "This is about people living. This is about people not dying."

As the flames of the pandemic still burn, a virtual fireside chat to ease hearts and minds about the cure.

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