Health experts stress importance of bolstering vaccine confidence for communities of color

While many Americans see COVID-19 vaccinations as a success some see something else.
"To acknowledge the problem, that there is a problem of trust. To acknowledge it and name it," said Dr. Marcelle Dougan, an associate professor in the San Jose State University Department of Public Health & Recreation.
Doctor Marcelle Dougan and others point to research that shows some minority communities are distrustful of the new vaccine. Experts said those communities fear both the drug and data gathered from its use could be used for nefarious reasons.
"We had legacies in academic medicine and the government which had broken trust. And so we want to explore in-depth attitudes in community about research in general," said Dr. Katherine Mathews, a researcher at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a co-author of a manuscript in this area.
Experts point to the Tuskegee Experiment as a catalyst for distrust in the African-American community. In 1932, the CDC-run program lured 600 Black men into a study of the progression of Syphilis. The subjects were given placebos, despite the advent of penicillin as a treatment in the 40s. Researchers provided no care to treat the disease, as some of the men infected their partners and unborn children, then went blind, insane, and ultimately died.
"Peoples who have been traumatized and victimized, and that seems to stick with people," said Dr. Thomas Plante, a Santa Clara University psychologist. "It doesn’t seem to just go away because something happened decades or even hundreds of years ago." Added Vice Admiral and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, "Vaccine confidence is lower in brown and black communities, and that is because real harm has been done to those communities in the past."
Some experts said the fact many of the first people to get vaccinated in the US were people of color is an attempt to assuage concerns.
"They’re intentionally trying to show people that are part of the community, that they are willing to take the vaccine so that members of the community will feel a certain sense of security and trust," said Dr. Ryan Skinnell, rhetoric and writing associate professor at San Jose State University.
That coveted trust could be difficult to earn when perceived success is filtered through the prism of history.