Feb 7, 2021 - Health

Black health experts urge Black Americans to get COVID vaccine

Illustration of syringes forming a health plus/cross
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A group of 60 Black members of the National Academy of Medicine signed on to a New York Times op-ed published Sunday urging Black Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Why it matters: Black communities in the U.S. have borne a disproportionate brunt of the effects of the pandemic. Data also now suggests they are being vaccinated at far lower rates than white Americans in the states that collect such information, writes Axios Vitals author Caitlin Owens.

The backdrop: Health and public officials across the country are combating long-held mistrust of health care systems by Black Americans to reassure them the vaccines aren't clandestine experiments, but necessary to combat the spread of the virus, writes Axios' Russell Contreras.  

What they're saying: "It should be reasonable to expect that all citizens can rely on their government and health institutions to protect them. But for many Black Americans, trust in the government does not come easily," write the authors. "Far too often, our health has been ignored and even abused in the name of science."

  • "Disinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines has pervaded social media, feeding on long-held and absolutely warranted distrust of health institutions in Black communities. The lies are an assault on our people, and it threatens to destroy us."

Yes, but: "These vaccines were tested by teams of outstanding scientists in many different countries — including Black scientists who worked on vaccine development and served on review panels for the Food and Drug Administration."

  • "Numerous Black public health professionals are leading the efforts to ensure that the distribution of the vaccine is fair and equitable."
  • "We have reviewed the research and feel confident the research was done correctly."

The op-ed was written by Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University's medical school, and Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

  • It is signed by 58 other people, including scientists, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals and public health experts.
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