Why Black Americans don’t trust a coronavirus vaccine

Volunteer Thabisle Khlatshwayo, who received her first shot for a COVID-19 vaccine trial, receives her second shot at a vaccine trial facility set at Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday Nov. 30, 2020. Over 2000 South African volunteers are on AstraZeneca's experimental coronavirus vaccine trial. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)(AP/Jerome Delay)
Only 14% of African Americans say they trust the safety of a coronavirus vaccine, according to a recent study by the COVID Collaborative.

Emergency Room physician Dr. Geoffrey Mount Varner says historical reasons such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment make the idea of trusting a vaccine a hard sell.

“Who’s going to present this to Black Americans, saying, ‘Hey everybody, you all have seen me, you know me and you trust me,'” said Mount Varner, who founded Lifeline Medical, in Bowie, Maryland, in 2004, which consults with hospitals and health-related companies.

The infamous Tuskegee experiment was a 40-year government study on Syphilis involving the deception of 600 poor Black men in Alabama.

Mount Varner says that their concerns are legitimate.

“I understand the concern but because of a crisis, we must go into crisis mode and think outside the box and right now the goal is to save your lives and the lives of our loved ones,” he said.

This study collected questionnaire responses from 1,050 Black adults and 258 Latino adults.

The study showed that 55% of Black Americans and 73% of Latinos said that they know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Additionally, 48% of Blacks and 52% of Latinos said that they know someone who has been hospitalized with or died from COVID-19.

When it comes to vaccine effectiveness, 18% of Black Americans and 40% of Latinos said that they trust that the COVID-19 vaccine will be effective. And, 28% of Black Americans and 47% of Latino Americans said that they are confident that a vaccine will be tested specifically for their racial or ethnic group.

WTOP’s Stephanie Gaines-Bryant contributed to this report.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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