One of the many timely references made in Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan‘s address on the Fourth of July was about the development of a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended 2020 and threatened more public health havoc moving into the new year. While reports have indicated there has been some real progress toward a vaccine from clinical trials, Farrakhan, delivering a speech called “The Criterion” and about the state of Black America, cited the country’s shaky medical history with its non-white citizens as a reason to be skeptical of “their medications” to treat a disease that has disproportionately affected Black people.
Farrakhan was not necessarily in anti-vaxxer mode. Instead, he urged Black people to be cautious when it came to a COVID-19 vaccine and suggested they consult Black doctors before proceeding.
“I say to my brothers and sisters in Africa…if they come up with a vaccine, be careful,” Farrakhan said before expanding his warning to include Black people in the United States, as well.
“Do not take their medications. We need to call a meeting of our skilled virologists, epidemiologists, and students of biology and chemistry,” Farrakhan implored. “We need to give ourselves something better. There are 14 therapies we can treat it with. The virus is a pestilence from Heaven. The only way to stop it is going to heaven.”
Farrakhan also called out the prominent proponents of the vaccine, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for having what he said was the audacity to insist that a vaccine was the best way to combat the coronavirus. He said Fauci and others were more interested in population control than public health.
“They’re plotting to give 7 billion 500 million people a vaccination,” Farrakhan said incredulously. “Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates and Melinda, you want to depopulate the earth. What the hell gives you that right?”
Farrakhan moved on from vaccines, but not before his final warning on the topic: “You’re sure to die now. They [just] want a quicker death.”
Farrakhan’s comments came one day before Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn refused to say when a vaccine would even become available. Hahn said he was “concerned” that a significant portion of the country could reject the vaccine once it becomes available.
Similarly with law enforcement, there’s a real divide between the Black and medical communities that is mostly based on trust. On top of that, medical experts are urging the involvement of Black people for vaccine trials against the coronavirus, saying it’s crucial for a community already gravely impacted by the virus, putting the pro- and anti-vaccine supporters at an impasse of sorts.
An experimental vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer along with the biotech firm BioNTech has shown positive results, according to a report released last week. However, a poll released last month showed that just half of the country planned to get the vaccine once it becomes available, suggesting that there may still be the kind of trust issues that Farrakhan highlighted in his speech.
One of the more egregious examples of America using Black people as medical guinea pigs was the Tuskegee syphilis study conducted in Alabama that subjected African Americans to one of the most insidious acts of racism ever endured.
The clinical study — ordered by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the progression of the disease syphilis in poor, rural Black men — was masked to the subjects as free health care from the government. With the Public Health Service working in tandem with the Tuskegee Institute, Black sharecroppers were left suffering from the disease, even though there was a known treatment in 1947 using penicillin.
Those experiments have contributed to widespread distrust in the African American community of medical experiments—especially without consent. However, that same distrust has been credited for one reason why Black people have been contracting the coronavirus at a higher rate than any other group of people.
Fewer than two years ago, research found that African Americans have been participating at a disproportionately high rate in clinical trials that don’t require patient consent. This involves administering experimental emergency medical procedures and drugs on patients who often can’t give consent because they’re unable to respond to questions. The FDA permits researchers to conduct these treatments under certain guidelines.
This stands in contrast to multiple studies that found African-Americans are underrepresented in consensual medical research. One study published in 2018 found that doctors have long used inaccurate guidelines to determine cardiovascular risks, which was particularly the case with at-risk African American patients. A significant part of the problem with the guidelines was that Blacks were underrepresented in the patient sample used to create the guidelines.
In the three hour address, Farrakhan not only spoke abut vaccines but he also repeatedly refuted accusations of anti-Semitism, questioned President Donald Trump’s motives, spoke about police violence, including George Floyd, and covered a handful of other topics relevant to Black America and the world as a whole.
Watch his full speech below.