Black Health Care Workers Aim To Build Vaccine Trust

A Pew poll found just 42% of Black Americans are willing to get vaccinated, despite 71% knowing someone who died or has been hospitalized from COVID.
Posted at 6:50 PM, Dec 17, 2020

Dr. Lou Edje, family physician: "We want to save lives. And this vaccine saves lives and it does it safely."

As public confidence in the COVID vaccines slowly increases, Black Americans remain less likely to trust the vaccine compared to other racial and ethnic groups. And that's why Black health care workers are stepping in.

Sandra Lindsay, the ICU nurse who was the first to get the COVID vaccine in the U.S., says, "I want to be part of the solution to put an end to this pandemic once and for all."

Martha Dawson, president, National Black Nurses Association: "I'm kind of tired of the questions about the vaccine because I don't see another choice."

A December Pew poll found only 42% of Black Americans are willing to get vaccinated, despite 71% of the group knowing someone who has died or been hospitalized with COVID. For Martha Dawson, president of the National Black Nurses Association, it's personal. 

"When I speak to someone and they tell me that I just lost my eighth family member," Dawson says, "and not put a face on all these people that have, that have died. They have mothers. They have brothers."

There is history behind the hesitation. The Tuskegee experiment that left Black men untreated for syphilis and the brutal gynecological studies on enslaved Black women are only some of the examples.  

Dr. Lou Edje, family physician: "So there's history, and it's very justified. I think the biggest impact that we will have is actually having those of us who have the vaccine, who live in communities with other people, see that we're doing very well."

Dr. Lou Edje advocated for science right from the start. After her stepmother died from COVID, she volunteered for the Moderna vaccine clinical trial. She wanted to lead by example.

Others have stepped in, too. The largest African American physician organization, the National Medical Association, has an independent task force that will question Pfizer and Moderna on specific community concerns.

Dr. Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association: "What we're doing is to help ask questions so people are informed. And so an informed public will make it more likely that people will take the vaccine because people want to know." 

Black health professional organizations and community leaders have also formed the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 to serve as trusted messengers for the community. They are also teaming up with other minority organizations. 

"So the vaccine is part of the prevention answer," says McDougle. "The other part is wearing a mask, physical distancing and washing one's hands."