Why Many Black Americans Aren’t Rushing to Get the COVID Vaccine

Why Many Black Americans Aren’t Rushing to Get the COVID Vaccine By Esther Jones for Children’s Health Defense

For insight into why many Black Americans are legitimately skeptical of COVID vaccines, one need only look back at the history of unethical and abusive treatments Black Americans have experienced at the hands of the medical establishment.

Black Americans have been the least inclined of any racial or ethnic group to say they’d get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The proportion of Black people who said they’ll probably or definitely take the shot has risen over time — but even by mid-January, with two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S., only 35% of Black survey respondents said they’d get it as soon as they could, or already had gotten the shot.

Will you get a COVID vaccine?
Surveys were conducted Jan. 11 – 18, 2021 Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed Black, Indigenous and other people of color in comparison to white members of American society. With Black Americans being hospitalized at rates 2.9 times higher than white Americans and dying from COVID-19 at rates 1.9 times higher, you might assume that Black people would be lining up at breakneck speed to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.

But the Black community has reasons for distrust — even beyond what might be attributed to the mixed messaging of the nation’s COVID-19 response. And it’s not a simple or sole matter of miseducation. I’m a medical humanist and bioethicist who studies history, ethics and literature to understand racial and gender health disparities. My research explores the history of unethical and abusive treatment Black Americans have experienced at the hands of the medical establishment. Based on past experience, Black people have many legitimate reasons to be in no hurry to get the vaccination.

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