Last week, when discussing my hopes and goals for the next year with my mom, the necessity of a vaccine obviously came up.
“Uh, I’m not taking it at first, and neither are you,” she told me. “We’re going to let them take it and see what happens”— “them” obviously meaning white folks.
This attitude isn’t uncommon among Black families, so much so that a group of Black medical professionals released an open letter encouraging Black people to take the vaccine when it is “safe and effective.”
According to NBC News, the eight esteemed doctors wrote the letter, dubbed “A Love Letter to Black America,” after recent polls showed a large percentage of Black Americans are skeptical of the initial vaccine. An Axios/Ipsos poll showed that while over 50 percent of white and Latino respondents would take the initial vaccination, 72 percent of Black respondents said they wouldn’t.
“Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones,” the letter reads. “Our colleagues across healthcare know that we are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available. However, for this to be successful, they must do more to earn your trust—now, and in the future.”
When one takes just a quick look back at the history between Black people and the American healthcare system, it’s not exactly a mystery why Black people have such a strong distrust. There’s the Tuskegee experiment, which tested the effects of untreated syphilis on hundreds of Black men without their consent. There’s Henrietta Lacks, whose cells—which led to many medical discoveries— were taken without her or her family’s consent.
If we fast forward to the present day, you need only look at the wide disparities that exist in treatment between Black and white patients. Add in the fact that development for the vaccine was done under the purview of the Trump administration, and quite honestly, it becomes surprising that anyone would question the widespread distrust within the Black community.
Later in the letter, the doctors call on Black people to assist in clinical trials for the vaccine to ensure that they’re safe and effective for the community as a whole.
From NBC News:
The doctors, who are in “key decision-making roles from the lab to the clinic to the virtual boardroom” are: Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association; David Carlisle, president of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; Martha A. Dawson, president of the National Black Nurses Association; Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University; James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Valerie Montgomery-Rice, president of Morehouse School of Medicine; Randal Morgan, president of The Cobb Institute; and Reed Tuckson, a founding member of the Black Coalition Against Covid.
The group asked the Black community to keep them accountable to protecting their health. They also shared their role within a medical and racial justice framework and encouraged people to continue practicing safety precautions, even though weathering several months of the pandemic is burdensome.
“We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We love you. And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity,” the group said.
The letter also includes a plea from the doctors for Black families to refrain from gathering during this holiday season. “With the holidays around the corner, we want nothing more than to break bread with our loved ones. But tradition cannot stand in the way of our health. We plead with you to wear your masks, continue social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding indoor events until vaccines are widely available,” the letter reads.
As just a humble writer who just wants you all to be safe, I ask that you heed their device. I love nothing more than going home on a Wednesday night, sipping some Henny while watching some All Elite Wrestling, and waking up to the smell of some bomb-ass sweet potato pie and mac-and-cheese.
That ain’t happening this year, though.
As a result of the pandemic going buck wild in my home state of Arizona and the nation at large, this is going to be the first Thanksgiving in my 28 years I don’t spend with my mom. Instead, I’m going to spend this Thursday drinking Henny, eating snacks, and playing Call of Duty: Warzone all day with the homies. It’s not my preferred way of spending the holiday, but it’s worth it if it means I get to celebrate many more with my family when it’s safe.
So please, y’all. Take all the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. Wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t go to that gathering. And when it’s safe to do so and when you feel comfortable doing so, consider taking the vaccine.