By Steven Mehling
The Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for public distribution, but as doses will be distributed, minority communities hit hardest by the pandemic are hesitant to commit to receiving the vaccine.
According to The COVID Tracking Project, Black people have been dying at 1.8 times the rate of white people in the United States. Additionally, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found only 17% of Black adults who responded said they would “definitely” get the vaccine once available.
“We should, as a Black community, […] feel okay — know that it’s okay — to not want to be the first person in line for this vaccine,” said senior philosophy, politics and economics major Saba Tshibaka, co-founder of Black Terps Matter. “However anyone feels, you know, it is completely okay to feel that way.”
Sophomore music performance and music education major Maia Foley, who is Chinese and white, said she felt hopeful about the vaccine, but her family members in the medical community are uncertain.
“We know it’s going to be effective to a degree,” said Foley. “But, there will always be people who don’t want to wear their masks and people who don’t want to stay home if they feel sick.”
She said they are also concerned about vaccine accessibility and are curious as to whether or not the vaccine will be available to those who need it most, in a timely manner.
Another student who is worried about vaccine accessibility is senior neurobiology and physiology, and government and politics major Tayyiaba Farooq, who is this university’s president of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. But Farooq, is not just concerned about vaccine distribution in the U.S.
“We talk about, you know, these marginalized groups,” said Farooq, who is Pakistani. “I am really worried for people outside of the United States getting access to a vaccine. Because there’s this term that’s kind of thrown around in these circles called vaccine sovereignty and vaccine imperialism, where researchers are able to exploit people in other countries [during vaccination trials].”
Farooq remained critical of the medical industry not only for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but for their handling of the vaccine. She said the handling of the pandemic has hindered at-risk communities’ ability to trust the vaccine.
“It’s sad because the people who need the vaccine the most are the ones who are most hesitant about it,” said Farooq. “And it just goes to show you how this profit-driven system within healthcare and within science is harming the communities it’s intended to serve.”