Why Black Americans Mistrust the COVID-19 Vaccine
Black Americans mistrust the COVID-19 vaccine in large proportions – and that is worrying health officials.
Recent surveys show that in the US, Black adults are more worried about co-infection with COVID-19 and influenza (flu) than White and Hispanic adults. However, despite this concern, a large percentage of Black adults say they will not get a COVID-19 vaccine when eligible, and they are either unsure about getting or will not get a flu vaccine this season.
This reflects a long history of mistrust of the healthcare system and misinformation around vaccination that healthcare professionals must address.
With COVID-19 vaccinations now underway, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is set to release the latest survey results on beliefs and attitudes toward vaccination against flu and COVID-19 among US Black adults.
While there has been progress in flu vaccine uptake across the US, there is still a critical need to increase the number of people getting vaccinated, especially in communities of color who bear a disproportionate burden of serious flu-related illness and are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
NFID President Patricia N. Whitley-Williams, MD, says, “In the midst of the pandemic, we need to continue to focus on increasing vaccination rates among those who are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 and flu, including Black adults, many of whom have chronic health conditions that put them at greater risk. We need to understand and acknowledge concerns among communities of color, so that we, as healthcare professionals, can help build trust in vaccines.”
I spoke with Dr. Whitley-Williams to discuss the persistent gaps and racial disparities in vaccination coverage. She explained the urgent need to encourage individuals to get vaccinated against both flu and COVID-19, while giving a breakdown of the new NFID survey findings regarding the views of the Covid-19 vaccine among the African American community.
About Our Guest
Patricia N. Whitley-Williams, MD, is president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and is professor of pediatrics; chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases; and associate dean of inclusion and diversity at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. A native of Boston, she received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Simmons College in Boston and a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati and fellowship training in pediatric infectious diseases at Boston City Hospital/Boston University School of Medicine.
She served on the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine as an assistant professor of pediatrics before joining the faculty of the Morehouse School of Medicine as an assistant professor of pediatrics and associate dean for clinical students. She was associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA from 1990 to 1993. In September of 1993, Dr. Whitley-Williams joined the faculty of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as associate professor of clinical pediatrics. She is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She is a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Medical Association (NMA). She serves on the NMA COVID-19 Task Force and as the NMA liaison to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is the immediate past chair of the US Medical Licensure Examination Management Committee as well as a member of the National Board of Medical Examiners Governance Review Task Force and Nominating Committee. She participates in community outreach projects as an active member of the Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Her research interests include HIV/AIDS in women and children as well as adult, childhood and adolescent immunization.
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