UAMS doctor says African Americans’ fears surrounding COVID-19 care ‘understandable’

Some Black people won’t be rushing to get the estimated 40 million coronavirus vaccines some say will be here by the end of December.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — With new developments for a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year, some Americans are skeptical about taking it. 

Some African Americans in Little Rock have voiced their opinions against taking the vaccine on social media, including Shagina Thompson. 

“I’m not confident at all in our government. Because the government… [is] not for Black people,” Thompson said.

Dr. Sarafina Kankam, MD, is a UAMS fellow and said their thoughts and fears are understandable.

“Our health system has failed African Americans in the past and most notably we think about the Tuskegee Trials in the 1930s,” Dr. Kankam said.

The trials involved researchers conducting syphilis treatments on African American men but telling them they were being treated for “bad blood,” which resulted in the men infecting their wives and deteriorating their health over time, according to the CDC.

This is what leaves people like Thompson to distrust the medical field.  

“Why not figure something else out without using us as Black humans and sacrificing us as the Guinee pig?” Thompson asked.

Dr. Kankam said a lot has changed since the 1930s and that when it comes to healthcare, any medication or vaccine that’s going through clinical research trials is heavily vetted and very strict nowadays.

“Unfortunately, forms of racism still exist. But overall, at least in the healthcare population, you know we take an oath to do our best and do no harm to our patients,” she said. “And that’s every patient regardless of where you’re from.”

Dr. Kankam urged everyone to take the time to trust the healthcare system and that they are making sure that this vaccine is safe for all groups of patients before distributing to the general population.

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