To Take the Vaccine or Not to Take the Vaccine That is the Question

Black Americans continue to stand out as less inclined to get vaccinated for COVID  than other racial and ethnic groups  according to a recent survey, which found that just 42% of African Americans said they would get  the vaccine when made public. 

To Take the Vaccine or Not to Take the Vaccine. That is the Question.                                                                                                       NPR recently reported  that 71% of Black respondents to a survey by the  Pew Research Center told researchers  they knew someone who has died or been hospitalized due to the Covid-19 virus, nearly 20 points higher than Americans overall (54%).

Yet Black Americans continue to stand out as less inclined to get vaccinated than other racial and ethnic group according to Pew, which found that just 42% of African Americans said they would get the vaccine when made publicly available compared to 83% of  English-speaking Asian Americans, 63% of White and 61% of Latinx respondents  who say they would take the vaccine.

-An Issue of History. A Question of  Trust-

Many Blacks are mistrustful when it comes to the medical profession as a  result of  centuries of racially tinged experience in this country.  It did not start with the Tuskegee experiment, but it is perhaps one of the best known examples.

During that  notorious   experiment of the 1930s,  researchers lied to hundreds of Black men, telling them they were conducting research on treatments for “bad blood.” In reality the scientists were allowing the Black men to die of untreated syphilis. Those experiments were slated to go on for six months, but they lasted 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Then there was The “father of modern gynecology” J. Marion Sims , who performed horrific experiments on Black female slaves without anesthesia. 

Today, the   Covid-19 vaccine is proving to be such a hard sell, that the Black Coalition Against Covid, a group of  Black doctors and nurses, has begun a national dialogue about Covid-19; starting with a “love Letter”   about Covid-19 urging  Blacks to continue  practicing  safety   guidelines until a vaccine is proven safe and effective  – and then    to take it.

Even President  Obama, during an interview last week with SiriusXM’s The Joe Madison Show, said that he’d be willing to get vaccinated in front of cameras when it becomes available. He said he may even end up taking it on TV or having it filmed “just so people know I trust the science.”

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have also said they are willing to get the vaccine in front of a camera.

But will that make a significant difference?

It’s hard to say. Consider that   racial disparities in vaccinations are common, including for the flu shot. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that just 39% of Black adults were vaccinated during the 2018-19 flu season, compared with 49% of White adults. And a poll by the Undefeated/Kaiser Family Foundation  found that even among Black adults who normally get a flu shot, one-third say they probably or definitely will not get a coronavirus vaccine.

Following is some general information about  the status of the vaccine development. How many vaccines are there? What are the side effects? Are they being developed too quickly?

The Vaccines

•There are three drugmakers that have  moved at record speed to come up with a Coronavirus  vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna and AsraZeneca. 

•According to the Washington Post, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be given in the coming weeks to those in high risk groups numbering about 200  million people – and then to the general population in late spring and early summer. However Moderna has only been in the business for 10 years – considered a very short time for a pharmaceutical company. And it  reportedly has never brought a single drug to market. 

•The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidate.

•Britain started administering the same vaccine, becoming the first Western nation to begin a mass effort to inoculate people against the coronavirus.

•AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are the first vaccine developers to publish their full data in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It suggests the need for more trials.

“Warp Speed”: Fast Track                                                                                                                                                                            Historically vaccines have taken years to develop. Before coronavirus, the mumps  vaccine for example – which took four  years to develop – was the fastest to be approved for use in humans. 

Safety                                                                                                                                                                                                                       No serious safety concerns have been reported – but the full safety data has not been yet been made available. Initial side effects have been minimal. Possible long range side effects are not yet known. Many people  feel there  is not enough information on potential side effects. Pfizer and Moderna  are  the first vaccines using messenger RNA technology ever approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration. By definition experimental. It is different from more traditional vaccines. 

Doses                                                                                                                                                                                                                         All three Coronavirus vaccines  require two doses.

Effectiveness                                                                                                                                                                                                        Pfizer reports protection for 28 days after getting the vaccine.  No information on what may happen after that.

Masks /Social  Distancing-                                                                                                                                                                                  Even after a vaccine  is approved experts say people will need to wear masks and socially distance. Exerts say it  could take months to return to “normal.”

Source: Time Magazine, The Washington Post,NYT