A disproportionate percentage of people of color (POC), specifically blacks, are hesitant to take the COVID vaccine. Many attribute this to their lack of faith in the health care system. To put it bluntly, that reason makes absolutely no sense.
Take the damn COVID Vaccine
To be clear, as a black man, Latino, and Caribbean man, I know that our health care system is racist. I have a sister who is a doctor and a daughter in medical school. I have heard enough to understand that racism in health care is systemic in all aspects of life in America. I lived it. It affected me firsthand, so much so that I spend an inordinate amount of my time taking care of myself instead of using the health care system, even as I have been lucky to have always been fully insured.
This morning I read an article in “The Atlantic” titled “I’m a Black Doctor. My Mom Still Won’t Get Vaccinated.” She wrote the following.
Months of cajoling and pressure haven’t worked. Neither has bringing home the COVID-19 vaccine and offering to administer it myself. I got my own vaccine as soon as I could—as did my husband and sons—with little to no side effects.
Yet my mother, a 93-year-old Black woman, still won’t get vaccinated.
Her excuses vary. One day she’ll insist, “I don’t know what’s in it,” even though I’ve explained it to her in detail. Another day: “I already have too many medications in my body,” or “I’m just not comfortable with it.” What she hasn’t said, but what I think is really the point: She doesn’t trust the medical system. And if you don’t trust a system, you don’t trust what the system is trying to do.
My mom is a college-educated woman who married a mathematician and raised three kids in a neighborhood chosen for its good schools. My degrees from Harvard, Case Western Reserve University, and UCLA are a testament to her determination and devotion to learning.
The doctor articulates many of her mother’s negative experiences at hospitals from doctors and technicians. She brought up the Tuskegee Study and more. But I think all these arguments are flawed. I know many POCs who refuse to take the vaccine. While their cover is usually health care racism and/or the Tuskegee Study or some other trust reason, the core driving them is another externality. And our failure to understand that and make the more appropriate counterargument is at issue.
Recently Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick attempted to blame black people for the resurgence of the pandemic. Numerically, that is false simply because of the size of the black population. Many quickly called him out, noting for every black person infected, there were 3 whites. POC’s outcomes are invariable worse than the white population, again a result of systemic racism in health care and because of POC’s comorbidities due to environment and more.
POC’s logic for not taking the vaccine is not only flawed but fatal for many reasons. It shows that they are just as susceptible to the well-designed disinformation Trump supporters and others succumb to frequently. Empirically, every POC that I speak to that is hesitant to take the vaccine eventually uses one of the well-tailored disinformation messages, microchips in the vaccine, congenital disabilities, Tuskegee Study, and more.
The thing is, the same arguments that POC’s use for being hesitant of taking the vaccine are, in fact, the arguments for taking the vaccine. If white people, en masse, are taking the vaccine and not suffering ill effects, then POCs need not fear. Take the vaccine. The people in the hospital or mostly those who refuse the vaccine. If you believe that the health care system and hospitals in the aggregate treat POCs as second-class citizens, then why would you want to risk having them take care of you in a COVID-infested state? I avoid the health care system like the plague. I took the vaccine. Taking the vaccine will minimize interaction with the system many do not trust.
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