The government is attempting to roll out the COVID vaccination as quickly as possible, especially for healthcare workers who are in the first tier and currently being offered the vaccine. However, reports show that vaccine hesitancy and refusal is high.
Forbes reported on Sunday several instances of large percentages of vaccination refusal. In New York, Roughly 55 percent of surveyed New York Fire Department firefighters said they would not get the vaccination. Ohio Governor Mike Dewitt reported that 60% of nursing home staff were either hesitant or refusing to take the vaccine.
These reports came as a surprise to scientists, who had assumed that healthcare workers would be among the most enthusiastic to receive the vaccine, having faced such an enormous toll from the pandemic and having insight into the safety of vaccines. So what might be accounting for vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers? Numerous experts and surveys have pointed to racism.
“Vaccine reluctance is a direct consequence of the medical system’s mistreatment of Black people,” emergency physicians Brian Thomas and Monique Smith stated in an Opinion piece for the New York Times. “The culture of medical exploitation, abuse, and neglect of Black Americans is best exemplified by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which for 40 years kept some 400 Black men with syphilis in rural Alabama ignorant of their diagnosis and denied them adequate treatment. J. Marion Sims, the 19th-century doctor known as the father of modern gynecology, operated on Black enslaved women without anesthesia or consent. To perfect his technique, he performed a gynecological surgical procedure on one woman 30 times, never with anesthesia.”
Medical racism is a legitimate concern that affects people today. According to the CDC, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white counterparts and a 2018 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report found that Black people and Indigenous people receive worse care in 40% of quality measures than white people.
Thomas and Smith have called upon the nation’s Black leaders and public figures to help ease Black American’s fears about the vaccine. They also encouraged the Center for Disease Control’s Office of Minority Health and Vaccine Taskforce to partner with prominent advocacy groups to help alleviate vaccine fears.
Governor Northam has been a staunch advocate for the vaccination, and Virginia began its rollout plan three weeks ago. As of Wednesday, the state has administered over four hundred thousand vaccinations.
To learn more about the safety of the vaccination, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html .