Dr. Reginald Washington, Chief Medical Officer of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, says at least 70% of the population would need to get the COVID-19 vaccine to bring this pandemic to an end.
People around the world saw light at the end of the coronavirus pandemic tunnel Tuesday, after a woman in the United Kingdom received the first vaccination for COVID-19. Americans could start receiving the coronavirus vaccine later this month, but research shows a large number of minorities aren’t interested.
According to Pew Research Center, 60% percent of Americans say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine.
Black people are nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, but a Pew Research Center survey shows only 32% of Black people and 56% of Hispanics plan to get vaccinated.
The country’s history of unethical medical research has led to some vaccine resistance in minorities.
The Tuskegee Study is the source of distrust for many African Americans. For 40 years, the United States Public Health Service withheld treatment from Black men with syphilis in an effort to learn more about the effects of the disease gone untreated.
“There are a lot of individuals who remember that and still believe that the CDC and others are experimenting with minority groups because of that experience,” said Washington.
Washington says many people also believe that vaccines cause illness, despite there being no scientific evidence that proves vaccines are the culprit. Recruiting minority participants for COVID vaccine trials has also been a challenge.
Jonathan Mendez, a microbiologist, took park in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial through The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He says he wasn’t hesitant, due his educational background and knowledge of the vaccine trial, but his grandfather was skeptical of his participation.
“He said ‘Be careful, you don’t really know what’s in there.’ He was really hesitant about it,” said Mendez. “I’ve taken all the classes on how MRNA works and how a vaccine works. If I just went off what the rest of my community thinks or what my family thinks, I don’t think I’d feel how I do about it.”
Mendez says the trial went well and believes he was in the placebo group. He applied for the trial in April. Months later, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released an ad campaign to encourage minority participation as drug makers struggled to recruit diversity for its studies.
“Once the first 25,000 slots filled up with Caucasians, they said they needed only the last 5,000 slots for Hispanic or Black participants to enroll because they needed the data,” said Mendez.
The Moderna study slowed in September so the drug maker could focus on minorities. At the completion of the Moderna trial, 37% of the volunteers were from racial and ethnic minorities.
Approving a vaccine usually takes 3 to 4 years, so all demographics can be studied. The pandemic pushed this one along, but Washington says that’s no reason to doubt it.
“There’s really no preliminary evidence that this vaccine will have adverse effects on minority individuals simply because they’re minorities,” said Washington.
Both Washington and Mendez say they will take the vaccination when it’s available.