Exposing myths about economics and health, plus urging everyone – especially people of color – to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them were power points during Tuesday’s monthly HUDDLE conversation.

Several high-powered panelists from the medical and business sectors offered wisdom in the fourth installment of the series that was titled: “Helping Dallas Rebound: COVID-19 vaccine and rebuilding business.”

Mavericks’ CEO Cynt Marshall moderated the virtual conversation while stressing that everybody will need help to rebound from a year unlike any other.

The primary focus was on the vaccine, but also how getting economic help for businesses can go hand in hand with keeping people healthy.

The first myth busted was that the vaccine is not confirmed to be safe.

“The vaccine is very safe,” Parkland Health and Hospital system senior vice president Dr. Vivian Johnson said. “Prior to the release of these vaccines, the food and drug administration requires that the manufacturer actually conduct clinical trials. Over 40,000 people were involved. Most of the patients reported mild to moderate side effects. We’re talking about arm soreness or headaches.

“And when you ask about efficacy, the study also showed that the vaccine actually lowers your chance of getting the vaccine by 95 percent compared to if you don’t get the vaccine. So it’s very important if we want to reduce the number of deaths, the number of severe hospitalizations that, that we accept the vaccine.”

Another myth that dovetails with whether the vaccine is safe is whether it’s safe for people of color.

Dr. Quinn Capers is UT-Southwestern associate dean of faculty diversity and said that he’s heard some disturbing comments about the vaccine.

“I had a cousin who said to me: I think it’s suspicious that they want all the black people to take it first,” Capers said. “That’s not true. In the trials showing that it works, there were 44,000 people, only about 9 or 10 percent were black. So the majority of people were not black, although that 9 or 10 percent was enough to know that it’s safe for black people.

“We don’t want the double tragedy of black and brown people staying away from this vaccine.”

Which, Capers said, leads to another myth: that getting information off the Internet and a lot of other sources is questionable at best.

“Get your information from your doctors,” he said. “Please go to your doctors. Don’t get your information from an Internet chat room, the barber shop, your best friend on the phone. If you have questions, go to your doctor.”

The HUDDLE, presented by UT Southwestern Medical Center, is a monthly dialogue among civic leaders, with a different topic or topics in each edition. HUDDLE board members Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel also took part in Tuesday’s conversation.

The HUDDLE is part of the Mavs Take ACTION! Plan that launched in June to address racial inequalities and promote social justice in North Texas.

A few numbers from Marshall brought things into perspective. There have been more than 235,000 coronavirus cases in Dallas County. For reference, that’s roughly the equivalent of the entire city of Plano.

There have been 2,500 deaths. In Texas, there have been 33,000 deaths and over 2.15 million cases.

Dr. Phillip Huang, director of Dallas County health and human services, said that the county is getting about 9,000 doses of the vaccine every week.

“But we’ve got almost 400,000 signed up for our waiting list to get the vaccine,” he said. “So it’s going to take a while. But it does give us a light at the end of the tunnel. But we need to continue to do the other things.”

That was made clear by Marshall., not just for yourself, but for those important to you.

“It is so important that we still wear a mask, wash our hands, keep our distance,” she said. “I tell my family those are my nine words of love to them. That’s how I show them I love them, that’s how I want them to show me they love me. Nine words. Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance. What’s love got to do with it? Everything.”

Which also leads to helping small businesses not just in North Texas, but everywhere, get back on their feet.

On Feb. 1, 2020, there were about one-million black-owned businesses in the United States. By mid-April, 440,000 of them had gone under.

Harrison Blair of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce said that funding from the government is one way that small businesses can get help. But it will take more, which the chamber is working toward.

“We need about $7.4 billion to $15.4 billion to protect not only those businesses, but 400,000 to 800000 employees that are employed by black businesses nationally, but specifically here in Dallas, we need more people to do what the Dallas Mavericks are doing,” Blair said. “The Dallas Mavericks have not only invested in the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, but you’ve invested everywhere. You’ve talked to small businesses. You guys have agreed to get more vendors into your own organization to make sure our businesses are stronger.”

Blair said a couple of local initiatives, including a guaranteed-pool fund, could benefit local black-owned businesses tremendously. The fund is a concent where municipalities, large corporations or intermediates like the black chamber would act as guarantors to help small black businesses who don’t typically get access to financing or capital growth become more credit-worthy to bankers.

But in the end, none of it will work without the health of business owners and their workers.

“Wearing a mask is huge,” Blair said. “A lot of entrepreneurs have to get out. Their business depends on interacting with the public. So wear your masks as you interact. They’re trying their very best to survive.

“Based on all the information shared today, bringing business and health together in one discussion is important,” Blair said. “So what you decide to do around this vaccine is largely going to decide when we can get back to a more normalized economy in our everyday activities and businesses can fully reopen.”

And that rising tide would lift all ships.

“We definitely want people to get back out,” Marshall said. “We want fans at our arena again. So we definitely want to participate in getting past this pandemic.

“We don’t want a double tragedy,” Marshall said. “Let’s help Dallas rebound.”

The double tragedy would be letting the virus continue unimpeded because people don’t get the vaccination.

Dr. Johnson outlined who is eligible to be vaccinated at the moment.

“We began with 1-A, and that was health-care workers and nursing home residents,” she said. “Now we’ve added 1-B and that group includes those that are 65 years or older. Or you’re 16 years or older but you have a medical condition. Some examples of a medical condition could be cancer, sickle-cell, any cardiac diseases, pregnancy, diabetes, another common condition that would make you a priority for this vaccine.”

Full details on whether you can be vaccinated yet are available here: www.parklandhospital.com/covid19vaccine.

Dr. Capers said he had the vaccine and he understands fears about side-effects.

“Nobody can ever guarantee you that you’re not going to have a bad side-effect from anything,” he said. “But when I weighed that against the devastation that this virus is causing, it was well worth the risk to protect me and protect my family.

“Our black nurses, our black doctors, we’ve even had a campaign of taking selfies when we get our injections to show you that we believe in it. We think it’s safe. And we’re putting some skin in the game, so to speak.”

And as trust begins to grow, slowly, hopefully, all the myths will be put to rest.

Twitter: @ESefko

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