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Surgeon General addresses misconceptions, urges inoculations as COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins

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U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar observed the vaccination of five hospital workers Monday at a “kick-off” event, on the same day that the historic coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer is beginning to be delivered to sites all across the United States and as certain high-priority individuals receive the first doses.

Adams notably addressed the hesitancy of many people of color to get the vaccine and how to encourage vaccination within many minority communities.

This long-awaited day also comes as the United States’ total COVID-19 death toll surpasses 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

We must now move from vaccines to vaccinations. And it would be a great tragedy if disparity is actually worsened because the people who could most benefit from this vaccine won’t take it.

Surgeon general Jerome Adams

“Today is truly an historic day,” Adams said at the afternoon press conference held at George Washington University’s hospital. “Vaccinations have been a tried and true public health measure for hundreds of years. But the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is nothing short of revolutionary, and I hope everybody appreciates the importance, the significance, the history of this moment.”

The surgeon general also thanked researchers across the country and the globe for their “Herculean efforts to bring us to where the light of the end of this long and dark tunnel.”

“But, […] having a vaccine is only the first step. We must now move from vaccines to vaccinations. And it would be a great tragedy if disparity is actually worsened because the people who could most benefit from this vaccine won’t take it.”

“I’ve often said, ‘Vaccines are one of our greatest social injustices in this country.’ So ensuring that all Americans have an equitable opportunity to receive the vaccine and promoting vaccine confidence and equitable uptake will be critical if we want to save lives, ensure the protection of all Americans against COVID-19, and end this pandemic.”

Adams then went on to speak about distrust within communities of color being a cause for reluctance to receive the vaccine, saying that such “lack of trust is not without good reason.”

He then cited the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment that occurred for decades as one of those reasons for distrust, adding that the studies “occurred within many of our own lifetimes.” The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment allowed over 600 Black men to live with syphilis for 40 years between 1932 and 1972, even though they were being told they were receiving health care from the government.

“To truly combat vaccine hesitancy and encourage diverse enrollment in clinical trials,” Adams continued, “we must first acknowledge this real history of mistreatment and exploitation of minorities by the medical community and the government.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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Joe Biden

President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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