The Latest: Kentucky urges Black citizens to get vaccinated

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Students hold signs as they take part in a rally to encourage wider opening of in-person learning in the Issaquah School District, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Issaquah, Wash., east of Seattle. Students in kindergarten and lower-elementary grades in the district recently returned to school under a hybrid in-person learning program, but older elementary, middle-, and high school students are still being taught remotely. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

LEXINGTON, Ky.: The Rev. Jim Thurman counts himself among the converts who recognize the importance of taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

The prominent Black activist received his second dose of vaccine Wednesday as Kentucky’s governor highlighted efforts to encourage minority populations to roll up their sleeves for the shots.

“It’s a matter between life and death,” said Thurman, president of the Lexington-Fayette County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Thurman said he initially refused to be inoculated, pointing to historical reasons for part of his hesitancy. He specifically noted the so-called “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” in which the federal government let hundreds of Black men in Alabama go untreated for syphilis for 40 years for research purposes.

But after considerable prayer, Thurman said, he saw the value of getting the shot.

Gov. Andy Beshear joined Thurman and other Black leaders at Shiloh Baptist Church to promote efforts to increase vaccination rates among the state’s minority residents.

Blacks make up 8.4% of Kentucky’s population but account for 4.6% of those vaccinated so far, the governor’s office said.