Black people will not trust COVID-19 vaccines

Walter Perez works as a black man and nurse practitioner at the U.S. Department of Veterinary Hospital in Long Beach and hears a lot of tremendous things from his black patients.

Such as the upcoming COVID-19 vaccines will not be safe because Big Pharma is turning to make more money. Or how the health care facility wants to use black people as guinea pigs to test vaccinations. Or that vaccinations may actually be more harmful than getting COVID-19.

The list continues.

“I can only describe it as paranoia,” Perez said. “A lot of people are just really paranoid.”

In fact, only 32% of black adults in the United States say they would definitely or probably take COVID-19, according to the Pew Research Center. Another study by COVID Collaborative and NAACP found that most black people do not believe a vaccine will be safe or effective and do not plan to receive it.

In California, it’s even worse: less than 30% of black people say they’re likely or sure to vaccinate themselves – the lowest proportion of a racial group surveyed by the California Public Policy Institute, though Latinos aren’t far behind.

The fact that we are here – along with the black people, alongside the Latinos, are still disproportionately dying from COVID-19 and Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are on the verge of introducing their life-saving vaccine – is not surprising to the black people.

Many adults as children heard stories about whether black men suffered during the Tuskegee Syphilis study, and as adults we experienced our own stories of having to fight inequalities to try to get adequate care.

I have never had a black doctor in my entire life. I am 43 years old. Last year, only about 2.6% of doctors in the country and 7.3% of medical university students were black. Due to persistent inequalities in education and household income, these figures have not changed since I was born. Considering the many studies that show that black people tend to get better results when treated by trusted black doctors and nurses, this is a problem.

Because of all this, convincing millions of skeptical black people about vaccination – a crucial step towards achieving 70% herd relief and controlling the epidemic – will not be as easy as many elected and public health officials would expect.

Just as the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis made it clear that this country never really addressed the history of police police racism, the COVID-19 epidemic made clear the history of distrust and systemic racism addressed in the nation’s health care. system.

Perez and black nurses and doctors understand this better than most. And they rightly want accounting.

“Is there mistrust of vaccines and the health care system in black communities? Yes. But this mistrust deserves very well, ”said Dr. Tiffani Johnson, an emergency physician at the pediatric ward at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. “So I think as a doctor, a researcher, and a health care system, we need to take a step back, instead of saying,‘ Why don’t black people trust us? “they say, ‘What have we done to gain trust?'”


So far, most plans for COVID-19 vaccines have focused on the relatively easier issue of access, which is understandable. There are desperate times.

The disease has already killed about 266,000 Americans. Coronavirus cases are on the rise at an alarming rate, with about 1 in 145 people infected and contagious in Los Angeles County last week. Thanksgiving plans have been upheld, and new shutdown orders and curfews have once again plunged small business owners into chaos.

So in the hope that this epidemic will end sooner, California is preparing to start mass vaccinations ahead, starting with health workers and other first responders. In LA, public health officials are working on how to store and distribute doses as they become available in a few weeks.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom assured Californians that “the stock lens is part of our focus”. In other words, ensuring that color communities have access to vaccines is a top priority – and that is how it should be. But it can backfire because the problem is not so much access as trust.

Dr. Flojaune Cofer, an epidemiologist and policy director for public nonprofit public health attorneys, describes it as “three hot shots” that add up to a non-winning scenario.

The first option for counties is to distribute vaccines to everyone at once, ignoring the fact that the black, Latin and indigenous populations receive a higher proportion of COVID-19 and die from it at a younger age, like other peoples. This leads to accusations that “there is no equity because you only give it to everyone at will or unwillingly at once”.

The second option is to target black people and, in most cases, introduce them to a logged neighborhood. “But then,” Cofer said, “people will say, ‘Oh, no!’ You won’t experiment with us like you did with Tuskegee. “

The third option is to extend it specifically to white people living in an area less affected by COVID-19. But then the black people say, “So you’re going to save yourself and leave the others alone?”

And all three such hot shots, Cofer added, are “completely valid and correct”.


Then what is the solution? I suspect that the recommendations of many black doctors who have agreed to the decisions of federal regulators regarding COVID-19 vaccines alleviate people’s fears. But until then, so will honesty and humility.

“We have to come out and say,‘ Look, vaccines have helped human history. Hopefully we want to get to the place where you feel good about a vaccination. “Cofer said.” We note that some will be ready tomorrow and some will not be ready for several years. And that’s okay.

Eric J. Williams, former president of National Black Nurses Assn. and the temporary dean of health at Santa Monica College said he expects black nurses and doctors to play too much of a role in vaccinating other black people.

One reason for this is that they set an example, as healthcare workers are among the first to vaccinate themselves. They will be the real guinea pigs.

The other reason is that nurses in particular tend to teach. Perez, for example, says he turns to facts when patients are confronted with conspiracy theories and uses examples of the importance of vaccinations, such as how many natives would have been saved if they had access to smallpox vaccination.

“We teach every day when we interact with patients, their families and the community,” Williams said.

Looking to the future, however, the real solution must be to restore public confidence in the nation’s health system. The fact that more than 13 million Americans have been infected with the deadly virus, and millions – of all species – are taking advantage of their chances of getting caught rather than getting vaccinated. This is not a problem Black doctors and nurses can solve it on their own and they should not be asked.

“If you want patients to be vaccinated, we also have to do our part to build credibility in the community in some way,” Johnson said. “I think all health care providers need to be called to action to think about this.”