Chicago minority communities skeptical about COVID-19 vaccine

History plays a role in distrust, experts say

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Minority communities skeptical about COVID-19 vaccine
Some people are still skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines despite FDA approval and evaluation process.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two vaccines currently seeking federal approval were shown to be safe and more than 90% effective in trails but a segment of public remains wary.

There have been big concerns in many minority communities about the safety of the new COVID-19 vaccine. Medical experts and activists are working on ways to change the perspective these groups have toward the vaccination.

Kerri D. and her 20-year-old daughter Mya Jones said they would not take a COVID-19 vaccine. The multi-racial Chicago residents, who are of Native American and Puerto Rican decent, question the speed of how quickly the vaccine was developed as well as its ingredients.

The vaccine's arrival in record time is a cause for skepticism for some.

"I don't know what's in it. Why risk it?" Kerri D. said.

The deep distrust of any COVID-19 vaccine comes from communities of color that were hit disproportionately hard by COIVD-19.

While the virus may be new, the research and technology that led to the creation of the vaccines are not.

In addition to the FDA review, officials said a panel of state experts will evaluate the data before any Illinois rollout.

"I've heard all kinds of, 'Oh, they have put x, y and z in this vaccine, and that's why I won't take it. We just need to get to the real facts," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health.

Bonnie Blue, 68, partook in the Moderna vaccine trials in Chicago and received either the vaccine or a placebo. She joined Gov. JB Pritzker's briefing to encourage the public to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

"When the vaccines become available, please take it. Do your research. Find out more about it. Don't just take my word for it," Blue said.

Concerns about the vaccine are not unique to minority communities. In a recent CDC survey of healthcare workers, less than two-thirds of those hospital employees said they would get the vaccine.

Minority communities, who were hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19, are skeptical of the new vaccines.

Dr. Airron Richardson, an emergency room physician and chief medical officer of Premier Urgent Care, said he is encouraging his patients to follow the science.

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"So I think skepticism is normal and I think good, but once we can look at some more of the data, once it's been deemed fully safe, I would have no problem recommending it to patients and taking it myself," Dr. Richardson said.

According to a recent Gallup poll that asked about the willingness to be vaccinated at no cost, 67% of white adults said they would take it while just over half of minorities said they would take it.

"I don't want to take something because they could just be trying to just knock us all out," Jones said.

Medical experts said the main factors for the distrust are rooted in history of betrayal of the Tuskegee experiments and the unapproved cell harvesting of Henrietta Lacks.

The new Roseland Community Hospital that serves mostly blacks and Latinos started outreach through and education campaign.

"Once we get comfortable and understanding what the vaccination can do for us and our families, as essential healthcare workers, then we can talk to people outside of our household and spread the word amongst our community," said Nikia Glenn, Roseland Community Hospital.

Experts said they are using faith leaders as well to try to bridge the gap so that people of color will be more comfortable taking the vaccine when it is available.