The African American and Diaspora Studies and the Black Studies Center, of the University of Wyoming, in partnership with the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research, discussed in a Zoom conference medical mistrust, vaccines and the Black community, in observation of Black History Month.

Dr. Lorette Oden-Shabazz, professor of Health Science and Social Work and a guest speaker, said the American eugenics movement in the late 19th century, as well as the Tuskegee Experiment in 1932 are the cause of a lot of medical mistrust within the Black community

Eugenics is the false concept of improving the human species by selectively mating people with ideal hereditary traits, thus removing undesirable traits from the human population.

The Tuskegee Experiment involved 600 Black males in Macon County, Alabama and enrolled them in a project that aimed to study syphilis and its progression. In return, the men were told they would receive free medical care to help treat the disease.

According to History.com, doctors from the U.S. Public Health Services informed the participants they were being treated for “bad blood.” Fifteen years into the study, the men were only given placebos instead of penicillin — which became the recommended treatment in 1947.

“Many died as a result … [it was] a blatant act of genocide on the Black community perpetuated by the white community,” said Oden-Shabazz. She added that events such as Tuskegee, or the “Mississippi Appendectormy — forced sterilization — often makes Blacks unwilling or hesitant to take vaccinations.

Oden-Shabazz did (and does) not encourage the Black community to blindly received a COVID-19 vaccination. Instead, she urges them to do their own research and make a choice bases upon conscience.

“We don’t know the long-term effects,” she said. She did add, though, that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 94.1% and 95% effective, respectfully.

She said that at times even she is conflicted due to the historical mistreatment of Blacks, and that cannot be ignored. However, there must be a definitive solution when it comes to transmissible illnesses.

“We have to see what’s going to be effective, “ she said. She added she doesn’t want to call it an experiment, but vaccines have to go through extensive clinical trials to prove effective.

(Note: the coronavirus vaccines underwent clinical trials designed to reflect racial demographics, according to the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy. The Moderna vaccine test trials included Blacks/African Americans (10.2%), Hispanics/Latinos (20.5%), and those of Asian descent (4.6%) The Pfizer vaccine include 9.2%, 27.9% and 4.2% Blacks, Hispanic and Asian, respectively.)

Nevertheless, this still doesn’t ease the angst many Blacks have regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.

Brother Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad took a more radical approach on the topic of mistruts and said no Black person can trust the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). He also said that until men like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have no stake to lose in pharmaceuticals, a conflict of interest will keep them from being honest with the community.

(Note: There is no evidence to support the claim that Fauci — as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates — will profit from certain pharmaceutical treatments. Nor is there any evidence supporting the claim that Fauci has a patent on any COVID-19 treatments.)

Muhammad’s underlying point is there’s a real need for more Black physicians and epidemiologists, especially at the medical authoritative levels.

“Until then, I can’t trust this,” he said.

Both Oden-Shabazz and Muhammad were joined by Sarah Sadia, a medical nurse in Buffalo. She said Black medical mistrust is mostly valid, as well as some of the anxiety surrounding the vaccine is due to its novelty.

“It’s very new, which makes it feel experimental,” said Sadia.

All three were in agreement that there needs to be more Black people in the medical field. To a person, they believe more Blacks in medicine will help safeguard against a repeat of history.

So, too, is knowledge.

“We really need to educate ourselves on the medicines and vaccinations,” said Oden-Shabazz. The added the FDA is the current leading authority on the different vaccinations, but is hopeful for different ways to combat the virus.

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