A significant number of Blacks in California – and possibly throughout the country – may be taking their chances with swine flu.
Despite recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control showing that 4,000 Americans have died from the H1N1 virus, free clinics in L.A. County report that they’ve vaccinated few Black residents. The news follows a recent Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California poll showing that Blacks in the state are far less likely to get the vaccine than other ethnic groups.
“I’m disappointed we have not had a higher percentage of African Americans coming to these clinics,” Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, a public health director, told a gathering of county officials last week. “I don’t think it’s (a) lack of sites available. Some surveys suggest it’s a lack of willingness to come forward, and some of that is historic.” The total of Blacks vaccinated wasn’t available, but in the county that includes South Los Angeles, thousands are candidates for the shot, which is free at clinics. Blacks are among ethnic groups reportedly considered at-risk of complications from H1N1 if it’s contracted.
In California and elsewhere, may be a factor among those who avoid the vaccine. Dating back to the infamous Tuskegee Experiment when Black men were deliberately left untreated for syphilis, the government’s motives in the name of health have generated distrust in the community. From 1932 to 1972, what was known as the U.S. Public Health Service misled 399 Black, mainly illiterate, Alabama sharecroppers into believing they had “bad blood.” Syphilis was never revealed as the disease, which medical staff claimed to be studying for its effects on Blacks versus Whites. During the period in which even Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney issued formal thanks and praise to the unknowing human guinea pigs for their participation, many men infected their wives and had children born with syphilis.
While the Experiment used phrases like, “Last Chance for Free Special Treatment,” to recruit, one doctor was quoted as saying: “As I see it, we have no further interest in these patients until they die.”
At a speech last month, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told listeners in Memphis that the swine flu vaccine also has a goal of death for Blacks.
“The Earth can’t take 6.5 billion people…” he said. “So what are you going to do? Kill as many as you can. We have to develop a science that kills them and makes it look as though they died from some disease.”
Despite Farrakhan’s lack of any evidence for his argument, Tuskegee’s memory, and even a 1990 study showing that 10 percent of Blacks think the government created AIDS may partly explain the low total of swine flu vaccines.