As pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna push for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some in the Black community remain wary about vaccine safety. Anthony Williams, a Chicago based cancer biologist, told ABC News that he understands the hesitancy many have given the history of medical violence against Black people in this country.
“There is a longstanding, centuries-long history of brutality against people of color, from the Tuskegee syphilis experiments to Henrietta Lacks,” Williams said in an interview with ABC News. After some reflection, Williams decided to take part in the Moderna clinical trial citing a need to improve disparities in Black health. Moderna reported Black people comprised 10% of participants in the phase III trial.
Moderna reported results from the phase III trial as being 94.1% effective overall. In its review of data released from phase III trial, Science Magazine reported that only 11 people who received both doses, developed COVID-19 symptoms. No one who received both doses of the vaccination developed severe COVID-19 symptoms. Similar findings were found in the final analysis of the Pfizer and BioNTech trial with only 1 person who received the vaccination developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
With the expedited process, wide spread misinformation, and mistrust of the outgoing administration, people may not get the information necessary to make an informed decision. In October, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine argued that the burden to address trust issues should not fall on the Black community to address. Instead, it is on clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, and regulatory agencies to prove trustworthiness.
While trust in the vaccine process is not only a Black issue, Black healthcare professionals are making it their mission to help inform Black people about the vaccine process and safety. In late November, eight Black health professionals put out a “Love Letter to Black America” affirming their commitment to Black communities and encouraging people to trust in the safety of vaccinations.
An effort of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, the love letter opens a clear affirmation of love and a commitment that the doctors and nurses have for Black people. The letter reminds people to observe social distancing and continue to wear masks, while encouraging participation in clinical trials and taking the vaccination when it is available.
Letter signees are David Carlisle, President, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; Dr. Martha A. Dawson, President, National Black Nurses Association; Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President, Howard University; Dr. James Hildreth, President, Meharry Medical College; Dr. Leon McDougle, President, National Medical Association; Dr. Valerie Montgomery-Rice, President, Morehouse School of Medicine; Dr. Randall Morgan, President, The Cobb Institute; and Dr. Reed Tuckson, Founding Member, Black Coalition Against COVID. The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 has also hosted live streamed town halls about the vaccinations and the vaccine trial process.
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