Tackling minority communities’ distrust of COVID-19 vaccine

Mistrust has deep roots
Posted at 5:17 PM, Dec 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-13 20:30:26-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Despite ongoing efforts by the county and health systems to roll out the new COVID-19 vaccine, experts say communities of color find it challenging to trust the system.

Roberto Alcantar with the Chicano Federation says tackling a mindset may be harder than tackling the virus.

"Historically, we have seen that in the black and brown community, there has been a general distrust of government," Alcantar said.

New data from the Pew Research Center shows that only 42% of Black Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is available. In comparison, 61% percent of white, 63% of Hispanic, and 83% of Asian populations say they would get the vaccine. Not because they are anti-vaxxers. Instead, many attribute that number to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

"Horrific stories that we've heard about medical trials in the Black community back in the 1950s and 1960s in which they were things being done without their awareness," Alcantar said.

It was a 40-year experiment that affected more than 600 black men who were told by the American government they were getting treatment for syphilis and other illnesses. When in reality, even after treatment was found, the men continued to get unrelated injections.

"So there's a lot of justification for that mistrust," Alcantar said.

Locally, Latinos make up the most positive COVID numbers. But Alcantar says the level of confidence in a new vaccine is still low. He says whether it is lack of access, information, or trust, Latinos have historically sought out less care, and the pandemic has only highlighted medical inequities.

That is why he believes it is important for community organizations to work with the government, not to force on the vaccine or sway people's opinions, but to build trust.

"There's a lot of work to do in regards to trust in government," Alcantar said. "But we're here to make sure that our communities are well-informed and have all the facts so that they can make the best decisions for themselves."

The World Health Organization attributes "vaccine hesitancy" as one of the ten threats to global health.