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Coronavirus Disease 2019

What’s Stopping Me from Taking the Covid-19 Vaccine?

Reasons why Black Americans should still consider taking the vaccine.

CDC from Unsplash
Source: CDC from Unsplash

By Douglas E. Lewis, Jr., Psy.D. on behalf of the Atlanta Behavioral Health Advocates

Trust me. I get it. Like other traumas sanctioned by our government, experimentation on Black and Brown bodies is etched into the psyche of the Black community. Deprived of proper anesthesia and free will, enslaved Black women were used to develop many of the techniques found in modern-day obstetrics and gynecology. To understand the pathogenesis of syphilis, i.e. the full development of the disease, hundreds of Black men were intentionally not given proper medical care, resulting in blindness, cognitive problems, and even death. The human cells of Henrietta Lacks were used for medical research without permission from or disclosure to her family for years. Budding physicians, even now, believe that Black Americans can endure a higher threshold of pain, causing great disparity in the medical treatment that they are provided. Black mothers are still more likely to die during childbirth than their White counterparts. Sadly, this list is not exhaustive, and what’s worse, we can easily find similar examples in every system—criminal justice, education, housing, finance, and so forth. Members of the Black community, however, don’t need to know or recite these examples because it is woven into the tapestry of their lives.

The onset of Covid-19 in early 2020 has changed the global landscape. Its effects are far-reaching and will be with us for years to come. During this age of misinformation, vaccines were developed at warp-speed to combat the spread of Covid-19, which only heightens the concerns of many. Our government asks that Americans become inoculated with these vaccines by the year’s end. In the face of centuries-long trauma and racist propaganda, how can we not expect members of the Black community to be fearful? Black and Brown bodies have been broken, mangled and discarded, seemingly without consequence, since our country’s inception.

Still, though keenly aware of America’s dark history and modern-day racism, I urge everyone, especially Black Americans, to strongly consider being vaccinated. Seek out sound information and speak with medical professionals. Advocate for your health and that of your loved ones, and should you find the vaccine is medically appropriate for you and your family, get scheduled. Preliminary findings show that Black Americans are dying from Covid-19 at a higher rate than their White counterparts, while being vaccinated at a much lower rate than Whites. In my professional and personal life, I have seen, heard, and felt the pain brought on by Covid-19. I’ve seen the tears trickle down the faces of children who could no longer call grandma or grandpa during the holidays. I’ve heard the wails and silent cries of adults who lost their partners and their parents. I’ve felt the compounded sorrow of families, as multiple outdoor funerals took place at the same time.

I know that, too often, the Black community has been tasked with taking care of itself, despite actively participating in our government’s “social contract.” I also know that the Black community has not reaped the fruit of its labors. I understand the distrust. Nonetheless, the potential risks of not being vaccinated far outweigh the known risks of being vaccinated. Engage in conversations with your family, local community, and medical providers and take charge of your health. We have a path to a better future.

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