PITTSBURGH — As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine heats up, there’s concern that the Black community is being left out of the equation.
A Pew Research Center survey from the spring found a majority of Black adults say the risks of experimental medical treatments outweigh the benefits. African Americans are 20% less likely to say they would get the coronavirus vaccine than white and Hispanic Americans.
“We’re in the middle of a crisis, and we need folks to sign up for a vaccine registry. But because of our history, that’s making it difficult,” said Dr. Jamil Bey.
Bey has been working with community groups to get people of color on the registry for COVID-19 vaccine trials and said the main hurdle is that some minority groups don’t trust scientists or the U.S. government.
“It’s not up to me to undo that, and I don’t think that’s fair to anybody right now. I mean, so the medical community, public health officials to public health departments. They have to take responsibility for that history,” Bey said.
“The men were misled into participating in a study of untreated sickness sponsored, financed and supported by the federal government for over 40 years,” an attorney said at a 1997 news conference for two of the men involved in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
In the 1930s, the public health service and the Tuskegee Institute came up with a plan to study the effects of syphilis on hundreds of Black men until death.
“The fact of the matter is that the participants in the Tuskegee syphillis study were never treated for syphillis at all,” The lawyer said.
Dr. Bey says a similar study happened in Guatemala as well.
“Our approach is not to get folks to overcome that. Our approach is to make sure that people have currrent information about what’s happening,” Bey said.
But he says through countless hours of outreach, they’ve been able to sign up more people.
“In the Pittsburgh registry, almost 15%, African Americans are in the registry. Where nationally that number is under 5%. Locally with the Hispanic population, it’s under 3%. We have almost 12% in the local registry,” Bey said,
Reporter: Why is it important to have so many different types of people involved, when you are trying to come up with a vaccine?
“When it comes to COVID-19, for example, we know that those that are of African American descent or those of Hispanic descent are much more likely to be infected, much more likely to die from this, so it’s very important that the vaccine be effective in that sub population. And the only way that you’re going to be able to know that is if you include enough of those individuals in your trials, so that you have robust data,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja.
Health experts said you should talk to your doctor before joining any trial. Click here if you would like to learn more about the vaccine trial process and how it works.
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