According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American adults are less likely than white adults to have received the flu vaccine in the past year or to have ever received the pneumonia vaccine. A recent survey reveals that a COVID-19 vaccine could receive the same reception.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and word of a vaccine is on the way, a recent survey on Blackdoctor.org (BDO) reveals that 58% of the respondents wouldn’t take a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it’s available. Also, 22% reported they would take the vaccine, but had “concerns.”
Experts at BDO say that even though the Black community is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the long history of distrust between Black Americans and the medical community is a factor. This distrust gets exacerbated when the government is involved in the research, creation and dissemination of the vaccine.
In an interview with the AmNews, BDO Chief Marketing Officer Derrick Lane said that the idea for the survey came from social media where people made comments about being hesitant to take a COVID-19 vaccine. BDO posted the survey on their website in July.
“We saw that there were a lot of comments around COVID and the vaccine,” Lane said. “We decided to just go ahead and put it out there because we know that there needs to be some sort of resolution to tackle COVID. But there’s this 500lb elephant in the room when it comes to vaccines and the African American community.”
The elephant Lane is referring to are the numerous medical experiences that have backfired on the Black community throughout history. Most notably the Tuskegee Experiment, a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 where nearly 400 Black men were given syphilis and untreated and Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had cell samples taken from her cervix in 1951 without her permission or knowledge for cancer research.
“The top reason is they don’t trust the current health care system,” Lane said. “In the comments we received, a lot of people refer to the Tuskegee Experiment as one of the main things that is still haunting the African American community and they don’t trust being the guinea pig.”
The issue of a COVID vaccine in the Black community came up during a recent televised interview where Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris. She was asked who, under her administration, would get the vaccine first.
“When we have a vaccine, those communities that are most in need, will get them,” she replied.
A COVID-19 vaccine has already been introduced in Russia. American drugmaker AstraZeneca announced this week that a vaccine is now in advanced trials. Health experts say a vaccine will likely be available in early 2021. Nationally, polls reveal that about 50% of Americans say they plan on taking it.
What would change people’s minds about getting a COVID vaccine? Lane says having trusted sources not forcing people to take it.
“You just have to give people the facts,” he said. “You need to have a trusted partner in the African American community in order to deliver the information. We are a community that speaks for themselves and we want to give people the unadulterated truth about what it can and it can’t do. We also need people to step up and want to take it.”