It was already pretty established that Black and brown folks were leery of being inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine, but the results of a new survey have resoundingly underscored that truth despite the coronavirus‘ disproportionate effect on their respective communities.
The survey, released Monday, was conducted in part with the NAACP and set out to address “attitudes and impacts of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy and resistance in the Black and Latinx communities.” But what the survey found likely dashed any optimistic expectations its organizers might have had going into it.
Just 14 percent of the 1,050 Black people surveyed in early September said they trusted the vaccine would be safe. Only 18 percent of Black respondents said that they believe it will be effective and actually work.
Conversely, survey responses from the Latinx community in each of those categories were more than double that of their Black counterparts.
While both groups said that having confidence in the vaccine was very important, the responses from Black people show there is hardly any faith in the vaccine at all.
The survey’s results came as several pharmaceutical companies have announced the vaccines each has developed are showing high levels of effectiveness from months of racially inclusive clinical trials across the globe.
The underwhelming response from Black survey respondents could affect the way the vaccine is rolled out and determine who gets it first.
Even if a distribution plan did prioritize Black people, it’s unclear which would be more challenging: being able to effectively deliver it to them or getting them to voluntarily be vaccinated, what with Black folk’s historical mistrust among doctors, physicians and the entire American healthcare system.
On the flip side, a poll conducted by Axios found that 65 percent of its respondents said they’d take the vaccine if pharmaceutical companies said it was at least 90 percent effective. That same poll found 55 percent of Black people it surveyed said they would also take the vaccine under the same condition.
Meanwhile, Black doctors and nurses have endorsed taking the vaccine and said so in a “love letter to Black America.” They wrote in part that they “are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available.” However, the letter continued, the healthcare community “must do more to earn your trust—now and in the future.”
To be sure, the CDC’s statistics on hospitalization and death by race and ethnicity shows that Black people are more than twice as likely to die as those from all other backgrounds after contracting the coronavirus.
A report published by the National Institutes of Health attributed part of Black folks’ mistrust of American medicine to “the historical legacy of mistreatment at the hands of the medical profession” along with “the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and current health disparities.”
A separate study called Color of Coronavirus that was conducted by APM Research Lab concluded in June that Black people’s fear of clinical racism must be addressed in any coronavirus vaccine trial.
The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis In the Negro Male involved infected Black men being solicited for a 40-year study (1932 to 1972) to treat syphilis with penicillin. They were offered free medical exams, free meals and burial insurance. However, they were not provided with the drug, and 28 of the original 399 Black men died of syphilis, 100 died from related complications, 40 of their wives were infected, and 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.
Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered an address in July cautioning Black people about COVID-19 vaccines and warning of “their medications” used on non-white people.
“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.”
President-Elect Joe Biden‘s newly formed Covid task force could ultimately help assuage Black folks’ concerns about the vaccine since he named a Black woman to be one of its co-chairs. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management at Yale University as well as the associate dean for health equity research at Yale’s medical school who specializes in health care for marginalized populations.
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