After a very brutal year filled with unimaginable loss and life-altering changes, the fact that the pandemic may be close to over feels like a relief for everyone. The rollout of vaccinations and COVID-19 cases decreasing in some places has created a sense of hope for many, and for those who have the opportunity to, the vaccination seems like the necessary step to making sure yourself and your loved ones can be safe. Of course with the creation of the new vaccinations means that there will be those who oppose it. Those who refuse to take it for multiple reasons, and those who choose to believe the words of others over professionals. It’s easy for us to judge the people who refuse to take the vaccination, but it’s important to recognize that your trust in this very new vaccination can be seen as rooted in privilege, and for many, the distrust in the American medical field is justified.
The Black and African-American communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 outbreak for a number of reasons. A study found that Black people are 4x more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 3x more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. Despite these statistics, during the early months of COVID-19, Black families were left vulnerable to the terrible disease due to the lack of care and effort from our government. Black families could not simply work from home, because many of their jobs were essential work or work that could not function from home. That either left you vulnerable to COVID-19 due to your job or left you short on money and looking for an essential workers job that would quickly become a risk. You would think that the group most affected by COVID-19 would be the first to show a huge interest in the vaccinations made available, but statistics show a very sad reality.
[bf_image id="9tc9j93p7m4ppvx8394vx4z"] According to “COVID Collaborative,” the NAACP, and other orgs, only 48% of Black people said they would take the vaccine, and only 14% said they trusted the vaccine. The CDC reports that 5.4% of Black people received the first dose of the vaccine compared to 60% of white people. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll states that 35% of Black people do not plan to get the vaccine due to how new it is and their concern for safety.
This distrust of the American medical industry is not new. This is rooted in history, in the way white America has and continues to dehumanize Black bodies. The medical industry is guilty of using people of color as guinea pigs in order to find cures for deadly diseases. A perfect example is the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Black Male.” This case, meant to last only 6 months, lasted over 40 years. Black men were targeted, given misinformation, and treated like disposables, all for a scientific test that ended up proving nothing. All it did was infect thousands of men and harm families in the process, inflicting death, causing blindness and other more serious medical issues. Even when the cure to the disease was created in 1947, researchers refused to offer the Black men the medicine, because they were more willing to kill off a huge number of Black men than help the innocent people who just wanted adequate medical help. Other examples exist, and that’s the issue. There are so many cases that never went documented, slaves who were subjected to horrific procedures in the name of science, and people who never received their due credit while the objectification of their bodies helped solve cures to some of the very diseases we no longer have to worry about.
[bf_image id="4w8tmnf54hr9wsbwfnrs6kx"] To quote Childish Gambino, “This is America.” A country that despite its progression, still to this day, has medical professionals basing their knowledge off of incredibly harmful stereotypes and mistreating Black people in the medical rooms. These experiences translate to trauma, and they carry with us forever. I’ve seen my grandparents experience it, my parents, and I myself have been mistreated in the medical room. I hope to get my vaccinations like everybody else, but I also hope that the flack people get, especially Black people, for being scared and careful of the new vaccinations, ends.