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Are you fearful of the potential side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Nurse gives mature African American man a vaccination in doctor's office during coronavirus pandemic

Source: Courtney Hale / Getty

2020 left many families and friend groups ravaged as they lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that we have several companies who have gotten FDA approval for their vaccines, the mission begins to solidify public trust that these somewhat-quickly medicines are safe to use and won’t cause life-altering side-effects. Obviously, the Black community has a sordid history and still-ongoing distrust of medical procedures and applications based on scandals like the Tuskegee Experiment and the way women are still ignored by doctors especially when it comes to pregnancy issues. If you go to any barbershop or hair salon you will hear Black folks saying, “I’m not taking that s#!t!” or, “I want to see *them* take it first then I’ll decide”.

While this cynicism may be understandable, it doesn’t exactly lend itself to “getting back to normal” as quickly as possible. In fact, skepticism about the coronavirus vaccine may prolong the pandemic depending on how long it takes for public trust to overwhelm the fear.


The President of Wayne State University in Detroit, M. Roy Wilson, has penned an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press urging the Black community to put fear aside and take the vaccine, in part, because the pandemic is so adversely affecting us the most. Wilson is a member of governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities and states that only 43% of African-Americans currently plan to take the vaccine compared to 61% of white folks. While we are three times as likely to die from coronavirus than our Caucasian counterparts.

I am very familiar with and have dedicated a good portion of my career to combating health disparities. The statistics remain appalling and unacceptable. When you also take into consideration atrocities like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, we have a lot to overcome in convincing many Blacks to trust the government. I understand the feeling.

Wilson goes on to say:

However, I feel confident in recommending the vaccine specifically to African Americans, for several reasons. The two vaccines currently available had good representation of African Americans in their clinical trials.  African Americans, including one of the lead scientists for vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health, were intimately involved in the their development;. And African Americans were included on the FDA panels that recommended their approval for emergency use authorization.




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