It’s not surprising many Black Americans aren’t comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine considering the history we have in American medicine. But on Tuesday, Sandra Lindsay became the first person in the United States to receive the vaccine, and she’s a Black woman.
Lindsay said she hopes her taking the vaccine will show it’s safe for Black people who still don’t trust the science — but it may take more than that.
Similar to most aspects of America, there is a problem with racism in the medical system. One clear example of this is the Tuskegee Experiment which started in 1932 in Macon County, Alabama. Many Black men with syphilis were left untreated for years, so doctors could see how the disease progressed before there was a cure.
Many doctors have long been taught Black people have a higher pain tolerance because it was believed we had thicker skin and less sensitive nerve endings than white people. This has led to many Black people not being treated correctly by doctors for pain, including Black women who are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
Considering this number, it makes sense Black people are hesitant to take the vaccine. But, we are more likely to have long-lasting effects because of COVID-19 because of preexisting conditions. Black Americans are more likely to have heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes than white Americans, and all of these conditions lead to more complications involved with COVID-19.
Because of our negative history with the medical system, many Black Americans feel like a vaccine may not be safe — but Black people may need the vaccine the most. It is important for doctors and experts to show this vaccine is not harmful to Black Americans.
I asked 20 Black Hoosiers if they feel comfortable taking the new vaccine and 17 of them said no. Other studies have been done which support this sentiment. Only 14% of Black Americans think the vaccine will be safe, according to a study from The NAACP, COVID Collaborative and UnidosUS
It is important Black Americans are able to trust the vaccine will be safe and effective. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, is talking to Black Americans to try and ease some of the worry built from years of mistreatment.
One of the points Facui wants Black people to know is one of the lead scientists who helped create Moderna's vaccine was a Black woman named Kizzmekia Corbett. Fauci has also talked about the safety and efficiency of the vaccine and been trying to address many of the specific worries many Black Americans share.
While experts like Facui must continue to explain the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for Black people, it may take some time before Black people are able to fully trust it. Doctors and experts must always be available to talk and give real and trustworthy information to Black people, and at the same time Black people must be willing to listen to the information so everyone can make the best decision for themselves and our communities.