Despite added pressure, including an appeal by some Black medical professionals, universities, and organizations, Black people don’t trust the fast-approaching Covid-19 vaccines nor claims by vaccine makers and the U.S. government that they are safe.
A recent poll indicates “fewer than half of Black adults, 48 percent, say they probably or definitely would get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available for free—including just 18 percent who definitely would get vaccinated.”
And, against that backdrop, there is talk of paying Americans to take the vaccine. “The reluctance of many Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready has some wondering: Should people get paid to get the shot to ensure herd immunity?” said a Today.com article.
“The latest Gallup poll—conducted before Pfizer and Moderna announced encouraging clinical trial results of their candidates—found 58 percent of Americans would get a free U.S. government-approved COVID-19 vaccine if it were ready today,” said the Nov. 30 report.
It’s estimated d 60-70 percent of the population must be immune for the vaccine to work properly, said Today.
“Former U.S. representative and presidential candidate John Delaney is suggesting $1,500 per person—calling it ‘a stimulus check & big vaccine incentive rolled into one” in a tweet,” said Today.
He argues for paying people totaling $400 billion and Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution, “suggested paying at least $1,000 per person,” said Today.
“Paying for vaccination may be ‘an ethically superior option’ over making the shot mandatory, and could be ‘very cheap’ when compared with the alternatives, according to a paper recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics,” the article continued.
“Arthur Caplan, founder of the division of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine, called it ‘a very bad idea.’ He explained that ‘anti-vaxxers’—people who are part of the anti-vaccination movement—would use any payment efforts to build more distrust. ‘If you pay people to get vaccinated, the strong implication is it’s not safe, there’s something wrong, you have to use money to persuade them,’ Caplan said.”
“Historically, we’ve never paid anybody to vaccinate with routine vaccinations—we’ve always said they’re safe and they work, and that’s why you should use them. You start rewarding them financially, I think many people may get nervous that they can’t be safe, they can’t work, there must be some reason you have to pay me to get it.”
Meanwhile, just 26 percent of Black people would recommend to friends and family that they get vaccinated, according to the “COVID Collaborative Survey: Coronavirus Vaccination Hesitancy in the Black and Latinx Communities,” released by Lang Research Associates on Nov. 23.
Blacks are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, which surpassed 13.5 million infections and 267,888 deaths in the U.S. at Final Call press time. As Vox.com reported, “Covid-19 has torn through Black America, with the virus taking the lives of Black people in the US at twice the rate of White Americans. All of America’s minorities, with the exception of Asian Americans, have seen worse outcomes than White people during the coronavirus pandemic. But Black Americans have fared worst of all, with about 1 in every 1,000 Black Americans dying from Covid-19 since February. That is about 40,000 people who have lost their lives. For their share of the US population, Black people are dying in the pandemic at twice the rate of White Americans, of whom about 1 in every 2,150 people has died.”
According to the Lang survey, two-thirds of Black adults believe the government can be rarely or never trusted to look out for the interests of the Black community. Just four in 10 in this majority would get the vaccine. Those who felt the U.S. government was more trustworthy or would at least occasionally look out for their interests were more inclined to take the vaccine.
A national group of doctors and nurses with the Black Coalition Against Covid is pushing through Black organizations a “Love Letter” to start a national dialogue about Covid-19.
The letter pleads with Blacks to continue practicing safety protocols and guidelines until vaccines are widely available. The Black doctors and nurses ask Blacks to join them in participating in clinical trials and take a vaccine once it’s proven safe and effective.
“This particular coalition of our Black medical and health professionals urging us to submit ourselves to the new vaccination tell us in the letter to hold them accountable. This is at best naive and at worst deceptive. How do we hold them accountable for that which they did not produce, that which they have no control over?” asked Student Minister Ava Muhammad, national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The mRNA Covid-19 vaccine will be the first of its kind. By definition it is experimental. It is designed to instruct our cells to manufacture a type of immune response that will shut down the virus,” she said. Both major U.S. firms, Pfizer and Moderna, are using mRNA in their vaccines.
“Moderna is not in the business of vaccines; it is not in the business of medical treatment. It is in the business of genetic engineering. How are Black doctors and nurses all the way down at the end of the process assuring us that this is good for us?” Min. Muhammad continued.
Where is focus on the pre-conditions that are present in virtually everyone who dies from the virus? she asked. Why aren’t they seriously looking at diabetes, which is a plague in the Black community and a global pandemic? asked Min. Muhammad.
“Diabetes has been declared a pandemic for a number of years by the World Health Organization because it kills millions of people globally every year, so when nearly one-half of covid deaths are people who are diabetic, why is that being ignored?” she said.
Diabetes caused 4.2 million deaths in 2019, according to the International Diabetes Federation. A couple million deaths were attributable to high blood sugar, according to the World Health Organization.
Black adults are 60 percent more likely than Whites to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, and, in 2017, Blacks were twice as likely as Whites to die from diabetes, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics reported by the U.S. Office of Minority Health. In addition, 34.2 million U.S. adults have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them are unaware, according to the CDC.
“I say to the coalition, get behind Minister Farrakhan and call for a lifting of the Cuban embargo. They have had overwhelming success in overcoming the virus. One of the components of their treatment protocol is to address the patient’s comorbidity,” said Min. Muhammad, referring to guidance and instructions Minister Farrakhan issued in his July 4 message, entitled “The Criterion.”
Minister Farrakhan warned Black people and others against blindly taking a vaccine for Covid-19. He warned Africa to be careful if a vaccine is offered based on the history and record of medical misdeeds and experimentation on Black, Brown, Native and poor people.
“Don’t let them vaccinate you with their history of treachery through vaccines, through medication. Are you listening? I say to the African presidents, do not take their medications. I say to those of us in America, we need to call a meeting of our skilled virologists, epidemiologists, students of biology and chemistry and we need to look at not only what they give us, we need to give ourselves something better,” Min. Farrakhan cautioned.
“My teacher told me, don’t speak to some, speak to the whole. I’m speaking for Black America, for Hispanic America, for the Native American and for those who are desirous of life. They’re making money now plotting to give seven billion five hundred million people a vaccination,” he added. The Minister also spoke of therapies and treatments other countries are utilizing that need to be looked into and explored to combat Covid-19 like what is happening in Cuba.
“We want what Cuba is developing against Covid-19. We want alpha interferon 2B, if that is what is good against Covid. We’re looking into Madagascar. We’re looking into other therapies, but we definitely will not accept your vaccine. You’ve blown it all the way around with us,” he said.
Dr. Reed Tuckson said the Love Letter is a way for Black doctors and nurses to be more engaged in speaking to the Black community from a perspective of love, caring and concern.
“We’re not vouching for anything. There’s no vaccine available for us to vouch for, so to suggest that would be a misunderstanding of what we’re doing. We don’t know yet. We haven’t seen the data about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine,” said Dr. Tuckson. Coalition member and the president of Morehouse School of Medicine Dr. Valerie Rice is on the external review committee that will examine the data and make recommendations prior to it going to the FDA for a decision, he said.
The Lang study also found knowledge of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which allowed Blacks stricken with syphilis to suffer for decades under the supervision of the U.S. Public Health Service, made those surveyed less likely to trust the federal government.
“I’m really getting tired of the statements that people are saying, when they continue to talk about Tuskegee experiment, because the Tuskegee experiment pales in comparison to the type of things that have been done to Black people in this country,” said Dr. Akili Graham Muhammad, a general family physician who practices in Houston. He is also a member of the Nation of Islam Coronavirus Task Force.
“From the moment we stepped on this soil, we have been experimented on. We’ve been used, abused, mistreated, and murdered by the NIH (the National Institutes of Health), by the CDC, by HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration), the FDA, all of these so-called organizations that are supposed to have our back, that are supposed to be making sure that we are protected and are healthy, are the organizations that have promoted and secretly pushed these types of murderous things on us in the past,” argued Dr. Graham Muhammad.
“So if every Black person, every Brown person, and if every native person to this soil is against vaccines, there should not be one White person on the planet that should have a problem with us coming to that conclusion.”
Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna set out to make a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 transmission and announced 95 percent and 94.5 percent success rates in keeping vaccine trial subjects from acquiring the virus. Pfizer’s final trial study included 43,000 participants and Moderna included 30,000 participants but the reported results were based on a very small sample of vaccine trial participants. The results announced by the companies, not an independent agency, were based on two months of study.
Dr. Reuben Warren, director of the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, explained that the vaccine success rates mean 95 percent of the time the subjects were tested, they were protected.
“But that’s short term. What about the long term?” he asked.
Not having studies peer-reviewed before the announcements via company press releases have also added to people’s skepticism, said some advocates.
“It doesn’t mean that the scientists at Pfizer are dishonest, but they have inherent bias. They want it to work. So you’ve got to get some peer reviews from outside of equal credentials, equal expertise to look at the results and do the evaluation,” Dr. Warren told The Final Call.
He feels Pfizer’s reporting of protection for 28 days after getting the vaccine suggests honesty and transparency. But, he added, who knows what will happen in two or six months from taking the vaccine?
Blacks need assurances based upon the plight of many who are low income and uninsured, said Dr. Warren. The drug companies are making enough money to give the additional assurances, particularly in the context of historical violations, he continued.
“It’s not like we’re starting from square one. We’re starting from a history of violations, particularly Black people. So we appropriately should be thoughtful and have some reservations,” said Dr. Warren. “They call it hesitancy, but the hesitancy is based upon, not only historical precedent, but current circumstances. We’ve still got to get out there and catch the bus. We still have to get out there and work some of those tough jobs. We still may be living in crowded conditions, and those are objective measures that put you at risk, as well as the historical ones,” he argued.