I’m Approaching the COVID-19 Vaccine With Caution — You Probably Should Too

We’re not in a place where we want to see whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine works at our expense

Black men being administered Syphilis during the Tuskegee experiments in

My spidey-senses are tingling again.

A vaccine for COVID-19 that hasn’t even finished trials yet is being fast tracked to be made available by the election. What an interesting time frame.

I am by no means an anti-vaxxer, but if you’ve been keeping track, the United States has a lot to gain by pushing out a vaccine, literally, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I’m apprehensive at best and I dont have to be Miss Cleo to know that there are plenty of others in my community that feel the same way. There were already reports earlier this year that places were having a hard time getting Black people to sign up for vaccine trials. This feels no different.

If you think about it, it makes all the sense in the world. The United States has had an awful history with Black experimentation and healthcare.

I — like many others — have a great recall on Black history and I’m not very interested in becoming a guinea pig for science. Maybe that sounds selfish, but the past paints a very clear picture as to why we should approach this with caution.

The hesitation is twofold. It comes from history and experience. It’s largely why I believe the Black community views health and well-being as taboo. It’s not that we aren’t concerned with having healthy lifestyles. It’s a combination of mistreatment and deception.

There’s not a great deal of trust here and we’ve seen too many calls to action leave us traumatized, unnecessarily, and having to rebuild.

Add that to the list of things we are tired of.

‪I’m not exaggerating either. Here’s a tangible list of just a few of the horrors that play a significant part in Black history:

  • Starting in 1932, 600 poor and illiterate Black sharecroppers were injected with syphilis in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service in order to track the natural untreated progression of syphilis in the human body. They were promised healthcare, free meals, and assurances, but were never informed of the study called “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” or the potential effects and consequences of the study, and left without a cure or treatment to the debilitation affects it would have on them and their families. — Tuskegee University
  • J. Marion Sims, revered hero of the medical world for some, did gynecology experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, carrying the belief that Black people don’t experience pain the way that anyone else did. He mutilated and killed immeasurable amounts of Black women. He also believed that Black people did not carry the same intelligence that White people did so he experimented and killed Black children using shoemakers tools to explore their skulls and brains. — History
  • Henrietta Lacks was treated unsuccessfully for cervical cancer in 1951 and the tumor was kept by doctors. Her cells were the first considered immortal, and though invaluable to medical research, her family was left in the dark about the tests and research happening with her private genetic information. Countless companies profited from her cells in private. — New Scientist
  • The National Institute of Health created a program that extracted blood samples of over 7,000 Black youth under the guise of testings for anemia and other medical problems. The blood was actually drawn, without parental knowledge, to screen boys with an extra “Y” chromosome because of an estranged theory that says males with the extra Y chromosome are more likely to become criminals later in life. Many of those blood samples went on to be sent to the courts to be used. — Baltimore Sun

‪It’s not paranoia. It’s PTSD. And yes, the virus may be affecting our community hard, but we’re not in a place where we want to see whether or not the vaccine works at our expense.

We’ve read the room. We’re going to need to see positive results with it elsewhere first before jumping in line.

The Black community and healthcare has always been a rocky relationship so please try to understand why Black people are feeling trepidatious.

In a climate where everything is political, even when some things should have evolved past that, and there are money and investments tied to something as critical as a vaccine, we are doing our best to not be unwilling contributors to history again.

A writer and singer-songwriter centered around perspective and diversity. Words found on Medium’s Level and Marker. Follow me @JoshuaDairen on Twitter and IG.

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