HOUSTON — Government officials said there will be enough of the COVID-19 vaccine for every American to get one by summer if they want.
But a recent study released by the COVID Collaborative, the NAACP and UnidosUS found only 18% of Black Americans trust the vaccine is effective while only 14% believe it’s safe.
“I would say the majority of the people I speak with – from Black professionals down to people who live in the communities – are very, very hesitant about taking the vaccine,” said Houston City Councilwoman Letitia Plummer.
Plummer and Keith Downey, the Super Neighborhood president in Kashmere Gardens, explained why. Although Downey plans to get the vaccine, he said people in the community are concerned with how quickly it was produced and approved after the pandemic hit.
“See there’s a gap between the medical field and the African American or Black community,” he said. “Many people do not realize that during the trial studies, tens of thousands of people participated in the trial studies.”
Plummer said a history of unjust treatment has also led to distrust now.
The most notorious example is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. For decades, the U.S. government experimented on African-American men, letting them suffer from the disease even after a treatment existed.
“We can’t get our potholes filled. We can’t get our trash picked up. We can’t get good schools. The inequities are so profound, so why would we get a vaccine that works if we can’t get the basic necessities in the communities? That level of distrust historically trickles down,” Plummer said.
She said she's working on rebuilding that trust with the community as a member of the city council. However, the distrust shows in some COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
Dr. Jessica Lee is leading AstraZeneca’s trial at UThealth. She said less than 5% of the volunteers at their site are minorities, while only 2% are African-Americans.
“We’re concerned because those are the groups that are most heavily affected by COVID,” Lee said. “We’re really, really needing to have those particular populations come into our trials.”
Lee said there are strong practices and training in place to ensure clinical trials are done ethically. She wants to assure the public no shortcuts have been taken to bring COVID-19 vaccines to market. Doctors and community leaders across the country are working to build trust in the vaccine.
While the shot isn’t a silver bullet, doctors said getting everyone on board is a crucial step towards putting the pandemic behind us.