Black Folks Have a Right to Ask Questions About the Covid Vaccine
How do we reconcile the Covid-19 vaccine with our history of medical racism?
An ambitious timeline released by the government this weekend promises to deliver 24 million Covid-19 vaccinations to Americans by mid-January. This is a good thing. Right? With the coronavirus spreading through the country and leaving illness and death in its wake, a vaccine should be a welcome relief and source of hope.
But talks of clinical trials and vaccination have only added additional stress to the hot mess that 2020 has proven itself to be for myself and my family. Not only am I skeptical, I’m also a bit terrified, and it turns out that I’m not alone. The Pew Research Center last week said that 40% of those polled are reluctant to take the vaccine — even though we desperately need it. And another poll conducted in September indicated that Black people have expressed greater hesitancy to get the vaccine than other racial groups — despite the disproportionate impact that the virus has had on the Black community.
Vaccine hesitancy paired with a valid distrust of racist medical practices could balloon into its own public health crisis. Though some argue that talking too much about it can reduce confidence in a vaccine that has the potential to save lives, the concerns of Black people are worth listening to and addressing. Hear me out: For those of us aware of America’s less-than-desirable track record of using Black people as medical guinea pigs, these are essential questions that we must find answers to. And, as Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an infectious disease pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Elemental, “People should be skeptical about anything they put into their bodies, especially a vaccine that’s being developed faster than any vaccine in history and that has language surrounding it that’s a little scary, like ‘warp speed’ and ‘race for a vaccine.’ People wonder whether timelines are being unreasonably compressed, the trial phases are being skipped, that safety guidelines are being ignored — those are understandable questions.”
Not only am I skeptical, I’m also a bit terrified, and it turns out that I’m…