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Marshall University head football coach Charles Huff shared this photo of himself getting the COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, during a clinic Jan. 29. Huff will discuss his experience during a virtual panel on health care and Black Americans at 4 p.m. Wednesday. 

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University head football coach Charles Huff will join a panel of doctors and other health experts to discuss disparities in health care and encourage Black Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Huff shared on the social media website Twitter that he received the vaccine in Kanawha County during a clinic Jan. 29.

Professor Burnis Morris, director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Lyceum at Marshall University, explained that minority populations have been reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, citing mistrust that has developed over the years over how the medical community treated African Americans.

According to a news article published by the website WebMD, Black, Hispanic and Native American people are about four times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, yet Black people have nearly the lowest rates of vaccination among any ethnic group.

The Tuskegee Study and the Henrietta Lacks case, in which her cancer cells were used for medical research without her or her family’s knowledge and without financial compensation, are examples of that mistreatment Black people faced, according to WebMD. In the Tuskegee experiments, Black men with syphilis were promised treatment but didn’t receive it. Many of them died, went blind or developed other serious health issues.

Now, local doctors want to encourage the Fairfield community of Huntington and other disadvantaged communities to listen to their appeal to taking the vaccine, which Huff is expected to give a special message on as well.

The panel, “Disparities in Health Care During the Pandemic,” will take place virtually at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10. It is part of Black History Month programming the Lyceum is offering at Marshall this month. To join, visit

Huff, the first Black head coach in Marshall football program history, plans to talk about his personal life and experiences, including recently receiving the vaccine.

The event will also feature Marshall President Jerome Gilbert; Jill Upson, who serves as chair of a state commission on disparities in health care affecting African Americans; Dr. Joseph Shapiro, dean of Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine; Huntington Mayor Steve Williams; and Dr. Leonard White of Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, with whom Williams shares a special bond he will discuss.

Dr. Lauri Andress of the West Virginia University School of Public Health will discuss infant mortality disparities in West Virginia.

For most women, especially white women, there is a difference in infant mortality based on their income and wealth, Morris explained, but for Black women, the problem does not disappear whether they are affluent, well-educated Black women or poor Black women.

Morris called Andress’ study on the disparities “outstanding” and something people need to hear.

The panel discussion will be followed by a Q&A period.

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