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Amid history of distrust, how do officials get vaccines into the Black community?

Posted at 11:14 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 23:14:46-05

NEW YORK — The enthusiastic reaction of British patients who received Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine certainly amounts to a step in the right direction — for the United Kingdom.

But health officials here in the United States are preparing for a less welcoming reception to the vaccine, particularly in Black communities, where there is already a deep, generational, almost baked in skepticism of the medical community.

Ruth Williams, an African American Harlem resident said promoting the vaccine in Black communities shouldn't be a challenge for health officials.

But then she was asked if she'd be vaccinated...

"You know what, I would take it when I see someone has experienced it. See how their outcome will be," she said.

Dr. Olajide Williams, Chief of Staff at Columbia University’s Department of Neurology, and no relation to Harlemite Ruth Williams, said increasing acceptance of the vaccine here in New York City will first require undoing decades of mistrust.

"The most famous of which is the government-backed Tuskegee syphilis study, in which Black men were actually told they were getting free medical care. But instead, they were denied therapy for their syphilis — and for decades," he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said while distribution of the vaccine is certainly a hurdle, convincing skeptical residents in communities of color to take it is a chief priority.

"Now you have to get to Black communities and Brown communities and poor communities where they're suspect about the vaccine in the first place. They don't believe Trump's approval process," he said.

Williams said obtaining that approval can only begin with a sincere partnership with influencers within the Black community, and showcasing their trust in a vaccine within their community.