Black Americans are apparently so distrustful of the United States government. They’re not participating in large enough numbers in the COVID-19 clinical trials. And many say they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine when and if it is released– at least not until many others try it first.
According to USA Today, polls show that among racial and ethnic groups, Black Americans are the most hesitant to take a vaccine once one becomes available, and their skepticism is increasing. One survey released in September showed that only 32% of Black adults said they would get a vaccine, which went down from 54% back in May.
Recent focus groups run by a foundation that supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that Black participants brought up systemic racism as the reason for their hesitancy and cited examples like the government-backed Tuskegee Syphilis Study, an infamous case where Black men were told they were getting free medical care but instead were denied therapy for their syphilis for decades.
“I firmly believe that this is another Tuskegee Experiment,” one focus group member stated.
Another added, “We are the ones who are the guinea pigs for the rich.”
This creates a major problem with the treatment’s development, without adequate Black and Hispanic participation in clinical trials, it won’t be clear whether the vaccine will be safe and effective for these groups.
Experts claim that while there are no significant genetic distinctions by race or ethnicity, people of color may react differently to a vaccine because of their different life experiences.
Experts also warn that if people don’t get vaccinated, they will remain vulnerable to the virus, which has already ravaged minority communities in particular.
Alexandre White, a historian of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said the mistrust needs to be addressed as soon as possible. “We’re seeing a deeply uncoordinated strategy. We’re not seeing a nationally coordinated strategy,” he said.
“The legacies of experimentation and racism date back to the origins of this country and are still quite fresh,” White said.