We’re entering Month No. 11 of the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally—mercifully, really—there’s a vaccine on the horizon to provide relative immunity from the potentially deadly virus. Many Americans have been dreaming for months about getting the jab (or jabs, depending on the shot). Others…well, not so much.

Not all this hesitancy stems from skepticism about vaccinations overall; a big portion of the concern stems from understandable distrust and fear. Many who are working through vaccine hesitancy are from Black and Brown communities—communities that have for too long have been marginalized and denied access to essential services. This reticence is based in part on a history of mistreatment, dishonesty, and oppression. It is the legacy of horrific experiences such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

Many of those we know and love mistrust the vaccine due to an accurate assessment of the history of discriminatory medical treatment and research. To put it differently, the apprehension regarding the vaccine is an understandable response to the lived experience of systemic racism.

Schools can, and must, step in to move the conversation around vaccine hesitancy forward. Public schools are uniquely positioned to help ensure that local communities have the information and confidence that they need to get vaccinated. We can work to address vaccine hesitancy in a manner that elevates trusted local voices and promotes uptake of faculty, staff, students, and families.

Schools can help raise awareness in their school community–we can take the lead on raising public awareness about the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine because we educate.

We can model the importance of trusting and understanding science. We can acknowledge the shortcomings of the past, repair the most egregious mistakes, and build hope around how we have grown. We can reach out to families and work together to get them to overcome their distrust in medicine and hospitals and doctors—all in the name of safeguarding health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, we hope that communicating with families about the vaccine will give them the knowledge they need to make an informed decision around what the vaccine is and what it isn’t. From there, we can rebuild together and support those who are now struggling the most.

Read the full article about COVID-19 hesitancy by Aaron Daly and Bb Ntsakey at Getting Smart.