History causes distrust for COVID-19 vaccine in African American communities

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As vaccines roll out nationwide, studies show trust of the science behind them is growing, but not for some communities.

Despite targeted advertising, recent polls show that the vast majority of African American respondents don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine.

A recent report from UnidosUS, the NAACP, and COVID Collaborative revealed that just 14% of Black Americans said they trust the COVID-19 vaccine and just 18% of respondents believe it works.

Doctor, Devika Maulik at Truman Medical Center said they see this distrust in some patients.

“A lot of people are weary and scared and I think that there’s a certain lack of trust in science and medicine in this vaccine,“ Maulik said.

The scope and severity of the COVID pandemic caused vaccine research to be accelerated.

The process, that would normally take 10 to 15 years, was completed in less than one.

Dr. Maulik said the vaccine is worth it even if you experience severe side effects.

“This disease is so terrible,” Maulik said. “Potentially so terrible that, I think the risk of the vaccine, even if it’s severe, it’s not as bad as how bad this disease can be.“

Kansas City‘s Mayor Quinton Lucas heard that message loud and clear. He received his first shot of the vaccine Friday and encouraged everyone to do the same.

“I was seeing on Facebook and social media, more and more people from my family, from the black community that I knew, were saying don’t do this, don’t trust it we can’t trust those long-term solutions,” Lucas said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Dr. Maulik also encourages Black Americans to get the vaccine, but she said they have a reason to be skeptical.

One of those examples is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

“You’re talking about a lot of pain and hurt that occurred,” Sylvester Folks, an Alabama-based filmmaker studying the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, said. “The worst part is, every person that died from that did not know that it was because they were being withheld medicine or proper treatment.“

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment began in Macon County Alabama in 1932 and was an experiment conducted by the United States Department of Health.

It studied the effects of syphilis on the human body by allowing the disease to ravage the bodies of Black male farmers, while denying them treatment.

Doctors told the farmers that they would receive free healthcare, but instead were injected with fake medicine.

Hundreds of subjects died and spread the disease unaware that they were being lied to.

Folks said the full affects of the experiment are still unknown.

“Think about how many generations of families could’ve spurred had they been given proper medical treatment,” Folks said.

The experiment went on for 40 years before ending in 1972.

Dr. Maulik said she is confident in this vaccine, because the studies to test its effectiveness were diverse.

“They tested about a few thousand people,” Maulik said. “About roughly 10% of both trials were people from the black community.”

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, targeted ads and elected officials are desperately working to rebuild the trust that was eroded 89 years ago.

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