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African American distrust in COVID-19 vaccine rooted in history

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 7:24 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Though interest in the COVID-19 vaccine is high, many are still reluctant to get the shot.

This is particularly true for African Americans.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, only 10% of qualified black people have gotten vaccinated so far, compared with 82% of qualified white people.

With African Americans making up about 22% of the state’s total population, that means less than half who are qualified to get the vaccine, actually have.

Calvin Henderson, the President of the NAACP Pitt County chapter, said much of it is rooted in history.

“Some of the fears and hesitation that we had in the African American community has to do with past experiences,” he explained.

He and Dr. Andrea Kitta, an ECU English professor who researches vaccines and pandemics, point to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study as a big reason.

Kitta says researchers in the 1930s were studying the long-term effects of syphilis in African American men when a cure was found halfway through.

“What happened then though is that the people who were doing the research decided not to give that cure to people, to continue the study,” said Kitta.

“There were people that legitimately were very ill that died that didn’t have to.”

She says that is one example of many that continue to make African Americans wary.

The problem is that the vaccine is especially important considering the African American community has already been hit pretty hard by the virus.

“It’s alarming how many of our people have already died,” said Henderson.

He got his COVID-19 vaccine last week and only experienced soreness where the needle went in.

He encourages others to look past their worries and recognize this vaccine as safe and effective.

“The question should be now when I can get one, how soon can I get it,” he said.

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