History of mistrust in medical institutions influencing Black community’s view of COVID-19 vaccine, health experts say

ORLANDO, Fla. — Officials say the COVID-19 vaccine that is currently being distributed across the country will only pull us out of the pandemic if enough people take it.

But some people are still on the fence whether they will opt for the shot.

For the Black community, that reluctance isn’t necessarily based on unfounded fears, but on a history of abuse, lack of care and outright dishonesty from some medical institutions.

READ: COVID-19 vaccine: Fact vs. fiction

As a result, there are plans in the works to start educating the community about these vaccines and why they are worth getting.

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows more Black adults are willing to get vaccinated, but 35% of study participants still said they will not get it.

Orlando Commissioner Bakari Burns, who is also the president and CEO of Orange Blossom Family Health, said he’s working with the state and national government to address the issue.

READ: Doctors fear COVID-19 vaccine’s arrival will lead to a disregard for safety over the holidays

Burns said he will get the vaccine publicly to encourage other Black people to get inoculated.

Health experts said the vaccine has side effects but won’t give you COVID-19.

University of Central Florida professor Dr. Rufus Barfield said these fears are rooted in American history from doctors experimenting on slaves, to using Henrietta Lacks’ cells without consent, and most notably, the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

READ: Tuskegee Syphilis Study: 9 things to know

“So when we talk about a vaccination there is deep historical context of mistrust,” Barfield said. “Not just of white health care institutions but amongst Blacks, Black physicians, Black health care workers.”


Cierra Putman, WFTV.com

Cierra Putman flew south to join Eyewitness News in July 2016.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.