Black America Has Questions About Vaccines. National Urban League Has Answers.
“We affirm that Black Lives Matter. And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity. In the spirit of unconditional love for every single Black American, we have locked arms in an initiative to place the health and safety of our community at the heart of the national conversation about COVID-19. Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones.” – A Love Letter to Black America from America’s Black Doctors and Nurses
Is the coronavirus vaccine safe? How many of the trial participants are Black? How much will it cost?
Based on a history of racism within the nation’s health care system, Black Americans are far more skeptical than whites about a COVID-19 vaccine, even as the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel this week recommended authorization of Pfizer’s version.
That’s why the National Urban League, the Black Coalition Against COVID and the leading black health professional organizations convened a special Town Hall on Understanding the Vaccine on Thursday to answer those questions and address those concerns.
More than 10,000 concerned Americans joined the event, held on the National Urban League’s web page, NUL.org, and social media channels, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from Black medical experts who have monitored the development and testing of the vaccine and advised the government officials responsible for its approval.
Yes, the vaccine is safe. About 10% of trial participants are Black. And the vaccine will be free.
“Let me be perfectly clear. I have absolutely no concerns about where we are in terms of vaccine development,” said panelist Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine. “We are facing a clear and present national emergency. People are dying every day. We need to turn around and stop it from happening in order to save lives. This is why the term emergency use authorization is so relevant. We are facing an emergency. I have total trust in my scientific colleagues that they are developing these technologies appropriately.”
One attendee asked, “How do we get folk to trust when there has been a history of medical experimentation exploitation and ongoing health care disparities?”
Dr. Reed Tuckson, founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID, responded: That’s why all of our Black health organizations are working together to be in all the places where decisions are being made. In the past, we were not in positions of influence to monitor but that is definitely not the case today. We have our eyes on every stage in this process, including being on the committee today that made the recommendations to FDA.”
Black mistrust of America’s medical institutions is sometimes called the “Tuskegee Effect,” named for a 40-year government study of 600 Black Alabama with syphilis in which the patients were not told of their diagnosis and were denied treatment.
Times have changed. As Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a similar Town Hall National Urban League presented on Tuesday, “So, the first thing you might want to say to my African-American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you’re going to be taking was developed by an African-American woman. And, that is just a fact.”
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is the lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research at Fauci’s National Institute of Health. She was also part of the team that worked with Moderna to develop its vaccine that’s expected to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA .