Black American skepticism of the COVID vaccine stems from their history

Church may play key role in vaccine outreach
Posted at 12:34 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 17:16:24-05

As Indiana waits for its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, there is hesitation among many Hoosiers. But that hesitation is likely highest among Black Americans.

"As a pastor of 32 years, I can tell you it's not going to just be, 'Do this,' and the African American culture by in large will embrace it. It's not going to work that way," Pastor Clyde Posley Jr. said.

The community's mistrust of medical research goes back hundreds of years to the days of slavery and continues today. Many of them know the story of a group black men from Tuskegee, Ala. who were used by researchers to track the then-unknown course of syphilis from 1932 until the 1970s.

"After they were enrolled in 1932, and even though there was medication available in 1947 that could have treated the syphilis, they were not told," Elaine Hernandez, a medical sociologist at Indiana University, said.

She says while people of all backgrounds may be hesitant to take a new vaccine, the history of African Americans and medical research must be acknowledged.

"Everything that we've seen so far this summer, all of the systematic and institutional racism that exists in other institutions, exists in medical institutions as well," Hernandez said.

Posley is an Indianapolis pastor who hasn't held an in-person church service since March. He says when the coronavirus vaccine is available, he'll gladly take it, and even do it publicly, but only after enough people have taken the first round and it's proven safe. He says only when that's done can the Black church push their members to get the vaccine.

"There is a consensus of the people that I've talked to that we would like to see some specific trials relative to Black people. Headed by Black people. And influence by black stakeholders in the African American community," Posley said.