Analysis & Comment

Opinion | When It Comes to Vaccines, Black Voices Can Save Black Lives

Many Black Americans say they are wary of taking the coronavirus vaccine, the logical result of centuries of abuse and exploitation by the United States health care system. We empathize with the patient who told one of us, “Baby, I just don’t trust vaccines,” and with our friends and family who say they are “just going to wait.”

And so we find ourselves with a complex problem: ​The Black​ communities most at risk in this pandemic are the least likely to take a potentially lifesaving vaccine when it becomes available to them.

We and our fellow Black health care workers have an important role to play in encouraging Black patients to get vaccinated. But that’s not enough.

In addition to the much needed, longer-term strategy of increasing Black representation among health care providers, we need a national public health campaign with local momentum that uses trusted voices in the Black community. As a short-term solution to a centuries-old problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should collaborate with the country’s most influential Black Americans, along with community organizers and Black health care workers, to make clear that the vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic.

To start with a few obvious names: Oprah Winfrey could use her television network to bring to life Covid-19 survival stories and the reality of the disease’s long-term effects. Michelle and Barack Obama could be vaccinated on national television, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was this week; LeBron James could tweet about the importance of getting the shot to his 49 million followers. Black social media influencers could post photos of their shots. The “Divine 9” historically Black fraternities and sororities could host a national vaccine stroll encouraging immunizations. Pastors and hairdressers could use their social ties to rally their communities around vaccinations.

Why is this necessary? Vaccine reluctance is a direct consequence of the medical system’s mistreatment of Black people. The culture of medical exploitation, abuse and neglect of Black Americans is best exemplified by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which for 40 years kept some 400 Black men with syphilis in rural Alabama ignorant of their diagnosis and denied them adequate treatment. J. Marion Sims, the 19th-century doctor known as the father of modern gynecology, operated on Black enslaved women without anesthesia or consent. To perfect his technique, he performed a gynecological surgical procedure on one woman 30 times, never with anesthesia.

Covid-19 Vaccines ›

Answers to Your Vaccine Questions

With distribution of a coronavirus vaccine beginning in the U.S., here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:

    • If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
    • When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated? Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
    • If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, but not forever. Here’s why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill. But what’s not clear is whether it’s possible for the virus to bloom in the nose — and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others — even as antibodies elsewhere in the body have mobilized to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine whether vaccinated people are protected from illness — not to find out whether they could still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccine and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to be hopeful that vaccinated people won’t spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone — even vaccinated people — will need to think of themselves as possible silent spreaders and keep wearing a mask. Read more here.
    • Will it hurt? What are the side effects? The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection into your arm won’t feel different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects does appear higher than a flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. The side effects, which can resemble the symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and appear more likely after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest some people might need to take a day off from work because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, about half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is mounting a potent response to the vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity.
    • Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.

    Source: Read Full Article