In a strange move last week, the Ohio Department of Health scheduled a series of virtual town halls aimed at dispelling "dangerous misinformation" about COVID-19 vaccines curiously segregating the events along predominantly racial and ethnic lines.
What are the details?
In a post published on its website, the health department announced that four separate town halls were set to take place beginning Monday, during which health experts would seek to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines.
"Whether you hear myths on social media, at work, or from friends or family, there is a lot of dangerous misinformation out there about COVID-19 vaccines," the post stated. "The truth is that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and rigorously tested. Ohio's COVID-19 Vaccine Town Halls are designed to help you sift through the myths and learn where you can find reliable, trustworthy information about COVID-19 vaccines."
As a part of a statewide vaccination program initiative, any Ohioans with questions about the vaccines were prompted to join the town halls where they could "hear from medical experts, community leaders, and public health professionals," the post indicated.
The department then listed off four options for residents to choose from:
- Monday, Feb. 22, 6:30 p.m. – African American Ohioans
- Tuesday, Feb. 23, 6:30 p.m. – Hispanic/Latino Ohioans
- Monday, March 1, 6:30 p.m. – Asian American and Pacific Islander Ohioans
- Tuesday, March 2, 6:30 p.m. – Rural Ohioans
"These town halls are targeted toward those in communities that are at high risk of contracting or dying from COVID-19, each with messengers that members of those communities trust," said ODH spokesperson, Alicia Shoults. "Anyone can watch any of the town halls. They are not segregated, and each town hall will provide beneficial information for all Ohioans."
Interestingly, there did not appear to be a town hall option for white Ohioans — or at least not white Ohioans who live in cities.
A flier for the "rural" town hall linked on the website depicts three obviously white males and one female whose ethnicity is a little more difficult to determine.
Image Source: Ohio Department of Health
Neither were there town hall options for individuals from a range of other races and ethnicities which undoubtedly call Ohio home.
The insinuation from the department seems pretty clear: The demographics most prone to believe misinformation about coronavirus vaccines hail from the four categories outlined in the post. White city dwellers don't need a town hall, it would seem.
The series is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, the American Chemical Society, and Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's Office of Faith-Based and Community initiatives.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated to include a response from the Ohio Department of Health.