WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the recent approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, there is great hope that there will soon be an end to what is arguably the most painful and deadliest public health crisis in our country’s history.
While a mass vaccination program, now underway, will bring healing to a nation that has witnessed more than 300,000 COVID deaths, medical authorities tell us that we are still months away from turning this pandemic around.
Making this even more challenging is how to ensure equitable access to the vaccine, especially for the Black community that has already been disproportionately impacted by the virus. This pandemic is exposing once again the long-standing health and economic disparities that have existed since the founding of our country. Black Americans are dying at nearly three times the rate of White Americans, and Black-owned businesses have closed at more than twice the rate of nonminority firms since the start of the pandemic.
We recognize that there has been a lot of misinformation since the beginning of the pandemic that has led to a deep erosion of trust about the safety of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Black community is trying to make sense of the oft-repeated, yet mistaken claim that the vaccines recently approved by the FDA are not safe because they were rushed to production. Black Americans are also trying to push past the historic mistreatment of Blacks in medical research, dating as far back as the Tuskegee experiment, which lasted 40 years from 1932 to 1972.
We certainly understand the anxiety of the moment because we read it in the news and hear it from our members, our friends, and our families. We want to strongly encourage our fellow Black Americans to place their faith in the science and data that have marshalled the best minds and resources, including the remarkable work of Black scientists, in the world to produce a safe and effective vaccine.
As leaders of some of the largest member organizations in the United States, and also as Black Americans, we believe that it is imperative that Black communities are provided the facts, data, and science to build their trust in the COVID vaccine. These communities continue to bear the largest burden from the coronavirus, and we are lending our collective voice to ensure our Black residents do not suffer a double calamity, because only when every Black American is vaccinated can we truly put an end to this pandemic.