Bowie mayor hosts virtual meeting to address COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Prince George's County

Across our region and the world, some people still don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine.

Prince George’s County leaders say they’re seeing that reluctance. The county has the lowest vaccination rate in Maryland. Just 1.5 percent of the population has gotten at least their first shot. Compare that to 3.3 percent in Montgomery County and 4.6 percent in Frederick County.

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Bowie Mayor Tim Adams set out to change some minds on Thursday hosting a virtual meeting with medical experts to address vaccine concerns.

Adams said he knows there’s particular mistrust in Black communities. Often referenced is a horribly unethical government experiment on Black men. The Tuskegee study on syphilis lasted for decades, into the 1970s.

"African Americans, in particular, were used sort of as guinea pigs," Adams said. "So those concerns have lasted."

Carrie Bridges, a Prince George’s County Public Schools teacher, is among those with concerns who signed on to the meeting.

"I have anxiety about getting myself inoculated along with my teenage children," said Bridges before the meeting.

READ MORE: Prince George's County residents must fill out pre-registration form to get COVID-19 vaccine

Bridges isn’t alone. Prince George’s County Public Schools just released a survey on employee vaccination plans. Of over 12,000 who replied, 8,589 indicated they planned to get vaccinated through the school system. Thousands more said 'no' or didn’t respond to the survey.

Bridges said she actually replied, ‘Yes’ to the survey, but since then has felt "extremely on the fence" about the vaccine. She also referenced the Tuskegee study.

During the meeting, Mayor Adams wanted to share his experience getting vaccinated and allowed people to ask questions and address concerns, including about how quickly the COVID vaccines were developed.

"I want to say that this is not an experiment," said Deneen Richmond, president of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center. "These vaccines have gone through the science and they are valid."

READ MORE: Additional COVID-19 vaccine appointments available for DC residents 65 and up, health care workers

Richmond said she is a lifelong Prince Georgian and is worried about vaccinations in her community.

"As a whole, Prince George’s County has been hit excessively hard with this pandemic and now my concern is we’re falling behind in our willingness to get the Covid vaccine," said Richmond.

After the meeting, Bridges told FOX 5 she had changed her mind based on the thorough information presented.

"It was broken down in a manner that was easy to understand," Bridges said.

Click below for more information on county-by-county vaccination data in DC, Maryland and Virginia:  

• DC Vaccination Data

• Maryland Vaccination Data

• Virginia Vaccination Data