NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Dr. James Hildreth, President of Meharry Medical College, got his first dose of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine on Wednesday.
“I got the vaccine myself today, this afternoon, because I’m totally confident the vaccine is safe. And I want to be able to say I’m not asking people to do something I’m not willing to do myself,” Hildreth said.
Hildreth sits on the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization board that gives recommendations for these vaccines. He said after reviewing the data from Pfizer and Moderna he’s confident in its efficacy.
“To me getting the vaccine is an act of self-love, but it’s also an act of loving your community,” Hildreth said.
But during a discussion with the Scarritt Bennett Center on Wednesday night, Hildreth said he both understands and appreciates the hesitancy some people have with getting vaccinated.
“And they have every right to be, if you’re an African American based on Tuskegee, Henrietta Lacks, in fact atrocities have been visited on black bodies in the United States since 1619,” Hildreth said.
Hildreth said people of color are going to be naturally skeptical, and while it’s an individual decision he believes herd immunity will not be reached to fight the pandemic unless 80-percent of the population gets the vaccine.
During the discussion Hildreth said he found comfort in knowing how many people of color were included in the creation and approval process.
“Not just on the scientific side but the policy side, the review side, and I’m really, really pleased by that. I think that going forward nothing less will be acceptable,” Hildreth said.
While Meharry was left out of the first wave of vaccinations, Hildreth said a phone call with State Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey on Tuesday sorted out the miscommunication.
Hildreth said the Meharry staff working at COVID-19 testing sites across Nashville were vaccinated with their first doses on Wednesday.