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Ethnic and racial minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded an effort to provide trustworthy information through active community engagement and outreach to those hardest hit by COVID-19 including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians.

The NIH Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID- 19 Disparities, or CEAL, leads efforts in 11 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. By promoting and facilitating the inclusion and participation of underrepresented communities in vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials, CEAL hopes to successfully prevent and treat the disease.


At UAB, investigators have leveraged the infrastructure and community partnerships of the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Health Professions. We have moved quickly to launch outreach efforts to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable populations and to evaluate these efforts through community-engaged research.

Leading the CEAL effort are principal investigators, Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, UAB School of Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Lead PI, Robert P. Kimberly, M.D., UAB School of Medicine, Center for Clinical and Translational Science, Andrea Cherrington, M.D., UAB School of Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, and Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., UAB School of Public Health.

CEAL PIs Headshots

We have expanded community outreach and communication through partners including Acclinate, Connection Health, Tuskegee University, University of Alabama – Institute for Rural Health, Auburn University – Harrison School of Pharmacy, Center for Healthy Communities, University of South Alabama, City of Bessemer, City of Prichard, and the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO).

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Recent News

Researchers with the Alabama Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, which is part of the National Institutes of Health’s CEAL, recently published findings from a study focused on understanding vaccine hesitancy among African American and Latinx communities.

The publication, "Exploring COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Stakeholders in African American and Latinx Communities in the Deep South through the Lens of the Health Belief Model,” was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion and reports findings from focus groups conducted with African American and Latinx participants in Jefferson, Dallas, and Mobile counties in Alabama.

The study concluded that participants were hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to mistrust, fear, and lack of information. Participants stated that they preferred to wait and see the long-term effects of the vaccine by watching how others react to it first.

Participants were further concerned about what they felt was the rushed development of the vaccine, unknown long-term side effects, and the efficiency of the vaccine. All of the focus groups mentioned the historical impact of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as a source of mistrust, and the term “guinea pig” was also used, with several people mentioning they did not want to be part of an experiment.

“We’re listening to what people have to say. Our goal is to increase Alabama’s number of vaccinated residents, and the best way to accomplish this is to hear what the communities are saying and help them form their own opinions based on the facts,” said Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, Lead Investigator for Alabama CEAL and director of the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center.

Informed by these findings, the Alabama CEAL team will continue to provide consistent messages from trusted sources to decrease vaccine hesitancy.

“Addressing concerns – which may be mistrust of a system, fear of getting the coronavirus, and needing more information – falls into an educational model of listening to communities and providing them with truthful, science-based information about strategies to mitigate risk for COVID-19,” said George Mensah, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and co-Lead of the NIH CEAL initiative.

Authors of the publication include Lori Bateman, Ph.D., R.D.; Allyson G. Hall, Ph.D.; William A. Anderson, Ph.D., MPH, MPA; Andrea L. Cherrington, M.D., MPH; Anna Helova, DrPH, MA, MB; Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.; Robert P. Kimberly, M.D.; Gabriela. Oates, Ph.D.; Tiffany Osborne; Corilyn Ott, Ph.D.; Melissa Ryan, MSHQS; Christian Strong; and Mona N. Fouad, M.D., MPH.

Faith Forward

In partnership with #NowIncluded, powered by Acclinate, and Clergy United, CEAL has created a series of videos that use the power of community leaders to help people understand the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Click one of the videos below to watch their testimony.

Joseph Turnes Sr. - Overseer of Titusville AOH Church of God

Pisani Baldwin Standfield - Pastor, Abundant Harvest Church

Barbara Stewart - Elder, Zion Star A.O.H. Church of God

Clinton Woods - Minister, Christ Church

Jim Lowe - Bishop, Guiding Lights Church

Michael W. Wesley Sr. - Senior Pastor, Greater Shiloh

Mark Pettway - Sheriff, Jefferson County

Noah Rocker - Senior Pastor, Fountain of Life Ministries

Dr. Kimberly Garfield Kelly - Host, Dr. K Show

Bishop Peter Wren Sr. - East Birmingham Church of God In Christ

Jay Bryant - Program Director, WAGG 610 Heaven

Leo Taylor - Radio Announcer, Summit Media

Apostle Joseph Hamilton, Zion Church

John Dansby - Senior Pastor, New Creation Christian Fellowship

Robert Sellers Sr. - Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church Homewood

Dr. Thomas Beavers - Servant Leader Senior Pastor, The Star Church

Patrick Smith - Chief, Birmingham Police Department

Lawana Rooks - Assistant Pastor, Tittusville AOH Church of God

Andra Sparks - Sr. Pastor, 45th Street Baptist Church

Charles Winston Jr. - Mt. Pilgrim Baptist District Association

Donald Richardson - EMS Coordinator, Birmingham Fire & Rescue

Clinton Carr - Pastor, Zion Temple Church, Heaven Bound Church

Lee A. Henderson Sr. - Senior Pastor, Tabernacle of Praise Ministries

Joseph Turnes Sr. - Overseer, Tittusville AOH Church of God

Demystifying COVID Vaccines and Addressing Myths and Misconceptions

As a part of this mission, the Minority Health & Health Disparities and its partners asked the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine Dean, Dr. Selwyn Vickers, and Director of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Jeanne Marazzo, to address the misinformation, confusion, and questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.

In this video, health professionals will help you understand exactly what is in a vaccine, how it works, and why it has been highly recommended. To view the video, please fill out the form below. 

CEAL Video 2


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