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Expert: Tuskegee Syphilis Study behind COVID-19 vaccine skepticism among some Blacks

'This is a death and life situation,' says doctor
Posted at 6:57 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 18:58:08-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Efforts to beat COVID-19 still draws skepticism. A Gallup poll finds Whites are more likely than non-Whites to be vaccinated. That's despite the fact that groups like Blacks are more than three times as likely to be hospitalized, and over two times as likely to die.

In many black neighborhoods the resurged demand for equal opportunity still visibly echoes but Blacks aren't a monolithic group — opinions vary from age to region and even issues including the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m from Alabama and I haven’t forgotten what happened to some of the Blacks there. I remember what happened in the past and there’s a ripple effect,” said Harrison Moorer. “But I also know it is in the past and we as a people need to get the vaccine. It’s a lifeline for my house and my family. If we get vaccinated we can save many lives.”

Sixty-five-year-old Moorer is referring to the 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Study. A 40-year study that rocked the American medical establishment. An advisory panel that reviewed that study found hundreds of impoverished blacks were misled, not given adequate treatment or penicillin for the disease. It also led to the government paying reparations to the living participants and their families. Read more, here.

“The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was why I chose to work in underserved communities because I don't want this to happen again,” said Dr. Yolanda Hardy, Palm Beach Atlantic School of Pharmacy assistant dean and associate professor.

Dr. Hardy said the study created a culture of “medical mistrust” and hesitation.

“It's definitely real and then we also had situations like Henrietta Lacks’ where her cells were being used without her or her family's consent to continue doing research in cancer,” she said.

Dr. Hardy wants to remind the public there have been sweeping changes in policies and regulations but she also wants more historical awareness and understanding among providers.

“Because that's going to help start the communication between the providers and the patient. So the patient can able to ask questions so that they can start to make a decision that they feel is an informed decision about what they want to do,” Dr. Hardy said.

“This is a death and life situation,” added Moorer.