LIVINGSTON, NJ — In response to the “high degree of skepticism among minorities” he has seen in the community, including within his own ophthalmology practice, regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein recently stressed how understanding Black history and learning from past injustices can help defeat COVID-19.

“With Black History Month this February, we reflect on historic Black mistreatment by governments and the medical community,” said Klein, who specifically referenced the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as a typical example. “The calamities of James Marion Sim, a gynecologist who experimented on slaves recently came to the fore, with the removal of his New York City statue.

“Today, doctors and hospitals recognize the dangers of conscious and unconscious bias, and many are working to address these issues, but obvious disparities persist in many measures including infant mortality and cancer outcomes among others. These trends carry through to COVID as well.”

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Noting that many studies have demonstrated worse Black and minority outcomes with COVID-19 “due to differences in access to care and higher rates of pre-existing medical conditions,” Klein recalled recent social media posts by family physician Dr. Susan Moore as an example. Moore had reported “being treated like a drug addict” while hospitalized for COVID-19 and later died as a result of her infection. 

“Yes, current Black skepticism can be expected and understood; but it has huge ramifications for the Black community and everyone,” the mayor said. “If we are to overcome such skepticism it must be with empathy and understanding. We will need to reach out as widely and as often as we can to ensure Black lives, and all lives, are protected.”

Klein added that Black leaders continue to play a crucial role that “no one else can substitute” and applauded their calls for all people, especially Black people, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He specifically commended American actor Tyler Perry for being one of those voices that “all of us must amplify.”  

“For those thinking, I got my shot, I’m safe,’ let’s be clear: the higher the viral load across populations, the more chance for mutations to be generate and the higher the likelihood that current vaccines—and the protections they provide—will become obsolete,” he said. “Unless all of us are protected, none of us are protected. If we want to defeat COVID, we need to understand Black history and learn from past injustices.”

As a medical professional and a local official, Klein has been a champion of the COVID-19 vaccination. In addition to volunteering to inoculate others at the Essex County COVID-19 Vaccination Site that has been set up at the Livingston Mall, Klein has received both doses of the vaccine and dedicated his second “jab” to his sons, Jack and Leo, and to “all the children of Livingston who have not been back to school full-time, but who hopefully will be soon.”

He and his fellow township council members have also recently joined in the efforts of Livingston Board of Education members to ensure that teachers are next in line to be vaccinated in New Jersey.

Click on the headlines below to read more local news about the COVID-19 vaccination and the latest statistics: 

Livingston Records 110 Cases Midway Through February; State Urges Double Masks

Livingston Mayor Helps Inoculate Community Members, Urges Others to Consider Vaccination

Livingston Officials Push for Teachers to Be Vaccinated in Next Group

Livingston Resident Creates Campaign to Honor Coronavirus Victims, Encourage Vaccination

Livingston Police Officers Receive Vaccine, Encourage Others to Follow Suit