Black Americans are being killed by Covid-19 at 1.5 times the rate of white Americans, yet many Black people are hesitant to line up for a vaccine.
According to a survey in January by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43 percent of Black adults say they will most likely take a “wait and see” approach before deciding whether to get the vaccine. Eight percent say they will get it only if it is required.
But Kaiser also said that the numbers reflected “a rise in enthusiasm across racial and ethnic groups since December,” with more of the public now wanting to get the vaccine “as soon as possible.”
Still, the finding was troubling to Thomas A. LaVeist and Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, who wrote an opinion essay published on Sunday in The New York Times, urging Black Americans “to claim your place in line to get vaccinated.” The article is signed by 60 Black health experts.
“Our country is facing a public health crisis on a level not experienced for more than 100 years,” wrote Dr. LaVeist, dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, and Dr. Benjamin, a physician and the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It should be reasonable to expect that all citizens can rely on their government and health institutions to protect them. But for many Black Americans, trust in the government does not come easily.”
They point to disinformation that has “pervaded social media” and to distrust in health institutions in Black communities as reasons that Black Americans are getting vaccinated at lower rates than white people.
In New York City, recent data show that of the nearly 300,000 city residents who have received their first doses of the vaccine, 11 percent were Black. (The city’s population is made up of roughly 24 percent Black people.)
“Vaccines are now available,” Dr. LaVeist and Dr. Benjamin wrote, adding: “We have reviewed the research and feel confident the research was done correctly. Most importantly, we know that the trials were conducted across a diverse group of Americans from all backgrounds — Black, Native American, White, Hispanic, Asian, and men and women. While we understand why there might be hesitancy about getting vaccinated, we need to weigh the risks of taking the vaccine versus being infected by the virus and the potential of health problems, hospitalization, even death.”
Black Americans are among the most affected in the country by the pandemic, mostly because of socioeconomic factors. Compared with white Americans, Black Americans tend to live in more crowded households and are more likely to have jobs that require them to work in close contact with others.