American vaccine challenge: convincing skeptical African-Americans

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New York (AFP)

The first Americans to receive the coronavirus vaccine, live on television, were black caregivers, lenses that exemplify a daunting challenge facing the national campaign: persuading skeptical African Americans to get the vaccine.

In the United States, blacks – and Latinos – are almost three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC), due to economic disparities.

But surveys show that African Americans are also among the most reluctant to get vaccinated, which experts attribute to medical experiments carried out during the days of slavery and segregation.

“I don’t feel like I’ve been chosen or targeted. I don’t feel like I’ve been used, ”said Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse, who was the first American to be vaccinated on Monday.

“We were very touched, so I encourage everyone who looks like me, everyone in the world, to take the vaccine,” Lindsay added after receiving the vaccine from Doctor Michelle Chester, who is also black.

The second American to be vaccinated, Yves Duroseau, an emergency physician, also directly implored his fellow black Americans to be vaccinated.

“We West Indians in general are reluctant to take the vaccine, and I want to encourage them to take it. This is the only way for us to end it. It’s certain. I have no fear, no doubt. “He told reporters.

Distrust of the vaccine has declined: about 60% of Americans polled in November said they would definitely or probably be vaccinated, up from 51% in September, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

However, only 42% of blacks surveyed said they would be vaccinated.

A study released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health organization, found that as confidence in the vaccine increases, black Americans are more skeptical than the rest of the population.

Thirty-five percent of black adults said they would not get the vaccine, compared to 27 percent of Americans in general, according to the survey.

– Experiences –

Experts say the reluctance is understandable given American history to conduct medical experiments on blacks. Among the most notorious were in Tuskegee, Alabama, between 1932 and 1972, when black men were unwittingly used to study the effects of syphilis.

In 2018, a statue of 19th-century American physician James Marion Sims, considered the father of modern gynecology, was removed from Central Park in New York City due to experiments he conducted on slaves.

“A lot of (skepticism) is based on mistrust and on the historical experiences that many of these groups have had,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical examiner for the Association of State and Territory Health Officials (ASTHO ).

“They are not anti-vaxxers, they are reluctant to be vaccinated. We need to find ways to reach them and build that trust, ”he added, saying showing black people on television the country’s first vaccines is“ probably a good strategy ”.

A US government-led national awareness campaign targeting reluctant citizens, such as minorities, is also due to begin this week.

Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick, a member of the Black Coalition Against Covid-19 and a specialist in public health campaigns, battles vaccine suspicion on the streets of Washington, DC.

“Whether it’s in the clinic or right here on the street, people tell me why they are suspicious. And that’s understandable, because of the history of injustice against blacks and brunettes in this country, ”she told AFP.

Last week, Fitzpatrick managed to dispel the doubts of Angelo Boone, a 61-year-old street cleaner who walked past the table the doctor had set up near Congress.

“I was able to understand how the trial went and some things,” Boone said. “So she kind of won me over. I think I’ll take it. ”

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