By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has remained vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus, tracking the different variants of the disease and studying the complications some have found with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
At the forefront is CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, whose schedule includes regular White House updates and testimony before congressional panels.
Dr. Walensky also led the federal agency this month in officially declaring racism as a public health threat.
On Wednesday, April 21, Dr. Walensky plans to sit for a special interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) “Let It Be Known” live breaking-news morning program.
The NNPA is the trade association for the 230 African American newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America.
“Dr. Walensky is looking forward to the interview with the Black Press to talk about these vital issues,” a spokesperson for the CDC noted.
The CDC’s independent vaccine advisory panel plans to convene by week’s end to discuss safety information regarding some blood-clotting cases in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The government has paused the use of the vaccine until it gathers further guidance.
Reportedly, about 5,800 breakthrough infections have occurred in the approximately 77 million individuals in the country who have received full vaccination.
The CDC has reminded everyone that no vaccine is 100 percent effective against the virus, but incidents like that occurring in a few with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are rare.
Dr. Walensky, the 19th CDC director and ninth administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, also declared racism a public health crisis.
She is expected to discuss her determination during the interview with the Black Press.
“What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans,” asserted Dr. Walensky, who also counts as an influential scholar whose pioneering research has helped advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS.
The declaration marks the first time that the CDC has taken such a bold position on race in America.
In doing so, Dr. Walensky highlighted several new efforts the CDC is leading to accelerating the work in addressing racism as a fundamental driver of racial and ethnic health inequities in the United States.
Dr. Walensky also unveiled a new website called “Racism and Health” that will serve as a hub for the agency’s efforts and a catalyst for greater education and dialogue around these critical issues.
She posited that racism affects everyone.
“It affects the health of our entire nation,” Dr. Walensky wrote in a statement.
“Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have lifelong negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.”
Since the pandemic outbreak more than one year ago, the United States has recorded over 31 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 560,000 deaths.
African Americans and other communities of color have been adversely affected.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the death of over 500,000 Americans. Tens of millions have been infected,” Dr. Walensky added.
“And across this country, people are suffering. Importantly, these painful experiences and the impact of COVID-19 are felt, most severely, in communities of color – communities that have experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths and where the social impact of the pandemic has been most extreme.”
Dr. Walensky continued:
“Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.”