A group of Black doctors penned a letter encouraging people to get the coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available.
The eight prominent physicians titled their message a “Love Letter to Black America.” It stresses the safety of getting the vaccine and the importance of it as the nation seeks to flatten the curve.
The doctors said their health care colleagues are aware of the distrust about the vaccine and the medical community “must do more to earn your trust — now and in the future.”
"We ask you to join us in participating in clinical trials and taking a vaccine once it's proven safe and effective," they said. "We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people — and that we trust — has an impact on our very survival."
The doctors added, "Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones."
According to an Axios/Ipsos poll taken in August, a significant portion of Black Americans said they were unlikely to get the first-generation COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. That’s compared to more than half of white and Latino respondents who said they’d agree to be vaccinated.
American history when it comes to vaccines and the African American community is a shaky one at best. Many point to the experiences of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken by doctors at Johns Hopkins University without her knowledge and used for experimentation as she died of cancer. There’s also the Black men who were subjected to the tortuous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
The doctors involved in writing the letter include Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association; David Carlisle, president of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; Martha A. Dawson, a doctor of nursing practice who is president of the National Black Nurses Association; Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University; James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of Morehouse School of Medicine; Randall Morgan, president of The Cobb Institute; and Reed Tuckson, a founding member of the Black Coalition Against Covid.
The group also requests that the Black community keep them accountable for protecting their health and share their role within a medical and racial justice framework. They encourage people to continue practicing safety precautions as the number of cases of COVID-19 rises.
"We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We love you. And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity," the group wrote in the letter. "We plead with you to wear your masks, continue social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding indoor events until vaccines are widely available."