I was in middle school when I learned about Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cancer cells were taken without her consent by a team of doctors, and used to discover groundbreaking medical breakthroughs. For decades, her family received no compensation and had no say in what happened with the parts of her doctors took.
I was in high school when I learned about the Tuskegee Experiment, when doctors in the 1930s recruited hundreds of Black men to study the effects of Syphilis disease, without telling them that’s what they were suffering from, and without providing them with apt treatment. The doctors watched them die.
There has been and continues to be a deep mistrust of medical professionals within the Black community because medical professionals have historically abused Black bodies. But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, mistrust only leads to more lives lost.
As states release data on vaccine distribution, it has been found that white people are being vaccinated at rates as much as three times higher than Black people.
You’d think the fact that people of color are dying from COVID at a much higher rate would mean they were also being vaccinated quicker, or at least at an even rate with white people. But because racism is built into the foundation of the United States government, there is a major disparity between who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and who isn’t.
But low rates of vaccinations are not just due to the completely justified mistrust within Black and Brown communities.
It is due to a purposeful lack of access. Barriers set up to prevent people of color from receiving adequate medical care continue to stand in the way. Black doctors are working to mend the mistrust, but that alone is not enough, it is merely one solution to one small problem within a much larger one.
The government must also work to close the vaccination disparity.
This means setting up accessible clinics in Black and Brown neighborhoods.
This means creating a plan to vaccinate all incarcerated people.
This means coming to the understanding that until your most vulnerable populations are safe, this virus will continue to ravage the entire country.
The North Star is a network of Black and Latinx journalists and creators that provide daily news stories and podcasts with action steps that help you get involved. We speak truth to power without fear because our stories, our voices and our lives matter. Please consider becoming a member and enjoy exclusive benefits of our ad-free platform for as little as $5 a month.