Concerns about COVID-19 vaccine in the African American community have historical roots

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As state health officials continue to vaccinate Oklahomans, there are concerns about the vaccine from African American communities.

Medical professionals say there are concerns about the safety of the vaccine, but also about the fact that the federal government is involved.

“The Tuskegee experiment still lingers,” said Dr. Christopher Harris

The chief resident at the OU Health Sciences Center talking about the ‘Tuskegee Experiment’, a 40-year federal government run study starting in the 1930s. African American farmers with syphilis were told they were getting free medical care, but instead were left untreated so scientists could study the disease’s long term effect.

“It has stayed with us that there has been not only a sense of hesitancy, but also fear in agreeing to do things in association with the federal government,” said State Senator George Young.

Photo goes with story
A photo of an incident from the Tuskegee Experiment, a 40-year-old federal government study in which African Americans were deceived into thinking they were receiving medical care, but were actually being experimented on.

Because of those fears, health experts say it’s important to talk about the process with those concerns in mind.

“It needs to be handled with care and with caution for the simple fact that we don’t want to alienate people who are already skeptical of the vaccine and the health care community,” said Harris.

“Those that know the history of vaccine testing in our country, know that our communities of color can sometimes feel weary of vaccines,” said Keith Reed of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

State health officials say they are aware of the problem too. They say they are doing their best to be as transparent as possible about the process. Although not required, they say there is a race question on the vaccine forms to help address concerns and track the distribution.

Photo goes with story
A photo of an incident from the Tuskegee Experiment, a 40-year-old federal government study in which African Americans were deceived into thinking they were receiving medical care, but were actually being experimented on.

“This is to better understand how we are reaching all populations,” said Reed.

“I want them to get the information by race because in a few months, I’m going to be asking them questions about race,” said Young.

As for whether the 66-year-old State Senator from Oklahoma City will get the vaccine himself?

“Lets get this vaccine, lets take it. Lets give this thing a chance to be able to try to give us back some portion of life that we once upon a time had,” said Young.

Young tells us he is slated to get his first shot tomorrow at the Oklahoma City County Health Department.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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