There is skepticism about the current offer of the COVID-19 vaccine, within the Black community. Many Black Americans do not trust the scientific/research community associated with marketing the vaccine. The trust has been eroded and there is anxiety and fear regarding this issue.
For those who are not aware, there are several events that have affected the psyche of Black Americans, related to the medical community. The Tuskegee Study involved enrolling Black men in a syphilis study in 1932 for the promise of free healthcare. Once penicillin was discovered as a cure in 1947, this information was not shared with the participants. The physicians felt the goal was to continue the study until all the participants died and the autopsies could be analyzed.
As a result the participants suffered the long term affects of the disease, that included but not limited to arthritis, brain damage, blindness and death. The disease was also passed to 19 children at birth. It was not until the mid 1960’s that this unethical behavior was discovered, and the study was not stopped until 1972 after public out cry.
Another unethical event involved Henrietta Lax, who was being treated at John Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer in 1951 and passed away. The physician did not get her consent or inform Ms. Lax or her family that he was using her cells for medical research after she died. In fact the family did not find out about the breach in the informed consent process until 1975.
The HELA cells, as they called now, has been shared with a multitude of researchers by biotech companies who have made millions selling the families genetic data. The use of the HELA cells has contributed to medical research for many diseases. Ms. Lax and her heirs have never received any monetary compensation from the million dollar biotech companies that utilize the HELA cells in their research.
In both of the cases, researchers were never forth coming about the information. Modern day issues include, health disparities and implicit bias by many medical professional toward minorities and the poor.
Since public trust has been eroded by the research and medical community they will have to go the extra mile to ensure all questions and concerned are addressed. The issues of trust should have been anticipated and hopefully it will be seriously addressed by the research community.
As a nurse and former research nurse, who is not on the front line, I probably will not be eligible for the vaccine until next year. Hopefully the side effects are few because the front line staff are essential to maintaining health & wellness to the masses. Everything remains to be seen and with more information coming we all can make informed decisions regarding the vaccine and our health.
In the meantime, continue to wash your hands, wear a mask and social distance. We want you to do your part to stay safe and healthy and reduce the spread.