Decades of Minorities Lack of Trust In Government Health Care, Cause for COVID-19 Vaccine Fear In Minority Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 11, 2021)– today decades of minorities lack of trust in government health care–cause for COVID-19 vaccine fear in minority communities.  In the spring 2020 Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases said,  “Health disparities have always existed for the African American community, but here again with the crisis now- it’s shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is.”

There is a reason why African-Americans do not like to go to their doctors or even to hospital. Many fear that they will be probed, prodded, and experimented upon without their consent, and return home sicker than when they left – or may not return home at all. It is because throughout their long history in the USA, African-Americans have been secretly used as guinea pigs for medical experimentation by various American governments. Leslie Goffe reports from Washington DC.

The fear that the us government and medical authorities had been engaged in what has been called a “dark history” of medical experimentation on African-Americans is supported by the release over the past several years of once-secret US government documents showing how, from slavery until today, African-Americans have been America’s favourite guinea pig alone with other minorities.

African American’s family members and other ancestors were used in the 626 Tuskegee Syphilis experiment beginning in 1932.  There were 600 African American men from Macon County, Alabama who enlisted to partake in a scientific experiment on syphilis. The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” was conducted by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and involved blood tests, x-rays, spinal taps and autopsies of the subjects.  

The goal of the experiment was to “observe the natural history of untreated syphilis” in black populations. But the subjects were unaware of this and were simply told they were receiving treatment for bad blood. Actually, they received no treatment at all. Even after penicillin was discovered as a safe and reliable cure for syphilis, the majority of men did not receive it.”


Pfizer-BioNTech data are for all participants globally; of which 76.7% are in the United States. Only 12.3 of African Americans participated in the COVID-19 trials.  Pfizer results provided for Phase 2/3 trial, Moderna results for Phase 3 trial. The Pfizer trial included those ages 16 and older. The Moderna trial included those ages 18 and older. 


These data show that although people of color are underrepresented in the clinical trials for the two initial COVID-19 vaccines compared to their share of the population, the trials include people from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds and are more diverse than some trials have historically been.

As the race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 clinical clinical trials became a concern about the low rate of minority participants in important subgroups, including Black communities.  The data indicated in 2020 that  although Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 21% of deaths from Covid-19 but only 3% of enrollees in vaccine trials.   Despite long-standing calls from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve the participation of underrepresented subgroups in drug trials, the problem persists.

Pfizer and Moderna  findings indicated that vaccine safety and efficacy were similar for people of color and White participants could help increase confidence in willingness to get the vaccine, particularly among Black adults who are more likely than White adults to point to concerns about safety and side effects as major reasons for why they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine. As such, information on the diversity of participants in the clinical trials and the trials’ findings on safety and efficacy for people of color could be an important component of outreach and education campaigns and vaccination efforts that could help prevent disparities in vaccination.

Source:NIH, Pfizer, Moderna,  and the Experiment and HEW’s Ethical Review contributed to article.



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