Black Physicians Group To Independently Vet Safety Of Covid-19 Vaccines

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Written by Ann Brown
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Black Physicians Group To Independently Vet Safety Of Covid-19 Vaccines Photo: A Black man included in a syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala, in this 1950s photo released by the National Archives. (National Archives via AP)

The Black community and the U.S. health system have a fragile relationship due to past lies and secret experiments. Many Black Americans still do not trust the medical field. As talk of vaccine testing heats up, a group of Black physicians has decided to create their own expert independent task force to vet covid-19 drugs and vaccines, Stat News reported.

The National Medical Association (NMA), which was founded in 1895 as an answer to racist professional societies that excluded Black doctors, will organize the committee.

“This is about ensuring safety for Operation Warp Speed,” Dr. Leon McDougle, president of the NMA, told CBS News. McDougle is referring to the Trump administration’s effort to accelerate the development and distribution of covid-19 vaccines. 

“It’s necessary to provide a trusted messenger of vetted information to the African American community,” McDougle, a family physician, told Stat News. “There is a concern that some of the recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration have been unduly influenced by politicians.”

The new task force will be a way to address suspicion about covid-19 vaccines, according to McDougle.

“I think this will help to increase uptake in the African-American community if members of our task force give it the green light,” McDougle said. The organization’s stamp of approval will come only if data show that the vaccine is effective and safe, he added.

Since the coronavirus has impacted the Black community disproportionately, it is important that vaccines be developed — but not at the risk of Black people, McDougle said. 

There is a need for this task force, said emergency physician Uché Blackstock. The founder and CEO of the consulting firm Advancing Health Equity, Blackstock is not a member of the NMA.

“We need a trusted organization to take the lead on this effort,” Blackstock said. “What we’ve seen in terms of political interference in the FDA and CDC has really undermined what little trust the Black community had.”

History is full of examples of medical mistreatment of Black Americans, including experimental operations on enslaved Black women between 1845 and 1849 by Alabama surgeon J Marion Sims, CBS News reported.

More recently, the notorious 40-year study by the Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute told almost 400 Black men with syphilis that they were being treated, but instead, they were being experimented on. Ultimately, participants were awarded $10 million in out-of-court settlement in 1974.

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the leading expert on covid-19, said he understands the skepticism of Black people.

“We have a history that has gotten much, much better lately, in the last few decades, but a bad news-history going back to things like Tuskegee,” Fauci said in an interview with BET’s Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. “We have African Americans who have sickle cell disease who come into the emergency room in terrible pain. And, you know, there’s sometimes a reluctance to give them the pain medication that they need. So those are the kinds of things that it’s understandable why there’s skepticism among African Americans regarding the typical classical medical establishment.”

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Fauci talked to Lamont Hill about “trying to convince” the Black community.

“We developed relationships with community reps who were trusted by the African-American community because they were reflecting the African American community. You want to go into the African American community with people who look and think and act like the people you’re trying to convince. You get the community people on the ground to go in and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you, I’ve scoped this out. This is something for your own benefit’”. 

The NMA’s task force includes infectious disease and immunization experts.