By the time coronavirus vaccinations were released late last year, the pandemic had already claimed the lives of two of Lucenia Williams Dunn’s close acquaintances, including her sister. Despite this, Ms. Dunn, the former mayor of Tuskegee, has been debating whether or not to be vaccinated for months.
Considering the government’s failed reaction to the epidemic, its disproportionate impact on Black communities, and a notorious 40-year government experiment with which her city is widely linked, it was a difficult decision to make.
“I thought about getting the vaccination almost each day,” said Ms. Dunn, 78, who eventually went into a drugstore this summer and rolled up her sleeve for an injection after deliberating with her family and doctor about the potential repercussions of not getting the shot.
It’s important for individuals to realize that part of their hesitation is based in a terrible past. And, for others, it’s a process of asking the appropriate questions in order to get to a point where they can receive the vaccination.
In the first few months after the introduction of the vaccine, Black Americans were much less likely than white Americans to be immunized. Additionally, their reluctance was fueled by a potent mix of widespread distrust of the government and medical institutions, as well as erroneous information about the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations in their communities.
Nonetheless, a wave of pro-vaccine efforts, as well as a spike in virus-related hospitalizations and fatalities last summer, which mainly affected the unvaccinated and were caused by the extremely infectious Delta strain, have helped to close the gap, according to experts. Likewise, the complete approval of a vaccination by the Food and Drug Administration, as well as new employer requirements, have been granted. It’s possible that a persistent opposition to vaccinations in certain white communities has also had a role in the reduction of disparities.
While there are still gaps in some areas, the most recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that by late September, a roughly equal share of the Black, white, and Hispanic adult populations had received at least one vaccine dose — 70 percent of Black adults, 71 percent of white adults, and 73 percent of Hispanic adults — according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in late August showed trends that were comparable to these. Even while federal data indicates a greater racial disparity, the data does not include demographic information for many vaccination recipients.
In the months following May, when vaccinations were made broadly accessible to the majority of people throughout the country, Kaiser Permanente’s monthly surveys have shown a consistent improvement in immunization rates among African-Americans.