Vaccine Skepticism Among African Americans Has Historical Roots

As the chances of having a vaccine grow, the fear of taking that vaccine does too, particularly among African Americans.
Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 30, 2020

The Covid-19 vaccine race is nearing the finish line.  

"We almost certainly are going to be vaccinating a portion of the individuals in the first priority before the end of December," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press. 

However, as the chances of having a vaccine grow, the fear of taking that vaccine does too, particularly among African-Americans, a group hard hit by the virus. 

A new study, from the NAACP and the COVID Collaborative dubbed the largest of its kind,  shows that only 14% of Black Americans trust that a vaccine will be safe. That’s lower than other minority groups and down from previous studies,

It’s a concern for health officials, like members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who have tried to overcome mistruths about the vaccine. 

"These vaccines have been tested in tens of thousands of individuals, there are independent data safety monitoring boards, there’s going to be an independent transparent review," said White House Coronavirus Testing Czar Rear Admiral Brett Giroir. 

One problem: many in the Black community don’t trust government health officials. The study shows only 29% trust the FDA and only 4% trust the Trump administration. With one participant saying, "The CDC and FDA have been undermined by Trump and can't be completely trusted."

Another problem: doctors are also competing with messages from social media. For example, a lie that Black people couldn’t catch COVID-19 at all went viral earlier this year. Doctors say online myths like this can do real harm. 

"You know, if we, for example, think that African-Americans can't or don't get COVID it may lead African Americans not to take preventative measures that we should be taking," Dr. Jennifer Caudle, family medicine associate professor at Rowan University told Newsy.  

Caudle, who has gone viral for her social media posts debunking COVID-19 health claims, says Blacks have good reasons for the mistrust.  

"If you think back historically, I mean, one of the most well-known examples given is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, where Black men were not given treatment for syphilis in order for scientists and researchers to sort of see what the natural progression of the disease state would be. We have a long history of being abused, misused, exploited, lied to, throughout history when it comes to health care. And there are still issues today," Caudle stated.  

Still, she’s encouraging her patients to follow the science and reputable sources. 

"I say anything that you read, especially regarding health information, and especially health information that you may be making a decision regarding your health about, you need to take that to a medical professional," said Caudle.  

Researchers behind the new study say in order to overcome the skepticism, health officials must admit to the horrors of the past and encourage science-based messages from Black community leaders. Amber Strong, Newsy.