• Our 360 Staff

A third of Black Americans know someone who has died from COVID

As a vaccine nears approval, mistrust still looms.

A poll released at the end of November found that 1 in 3 African Americans know someone close to them who died of COVID-19. It illuminates what experts have been saying since the summer: the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color in the US—especially the elderly—while younger, wealthier, and White people are less likely to know anyone who has been affected.  

Noted pollster Frank Lutz conducted the poll and said “we do not have a partisan divide – it is a chasm,” in explaining the differences between Republicans and Democrats and how they respond to health officials in a Fox interview. “The words our leaders are using need an immediate upgrade. What they’re saying isn’t working. Democrats and Republicans simply think differently and act differently. We need to accept this as fact.”

Officials are fearing that “COVID fatigue” is impacting weary Americans to not put on their masks or heed warnings about gathering with people outside of their homes. It comes at a time when cases and hospitalizations are hitting new records.

One sign of good news are forthcoming vaccines developed by multiple pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines could be approved for emergency use with elderly and healthcare workers first in line to get the vaccine by the end of the year. However, in order for immunity to spread among the general population, a high percentage of all people need to be vaccinated. Two recent polls show confidence in the vaccine is low, particularly among African Americans.

In a poll released in October, only 43 percent of Black respondents said they would take a vaccine: in a September Pew-Research poll, 33 percent of Black respondents indicated they would get the vaccine.

To drum up support for the vaccine, the Black Coalition Against COVID recently wrote a letter and created a video to Black Americans urging them to get the vaccine when available.

”We ask you to join us in participating in clinical trials and taking a vaccine once it's proven safe and effective," said the joint statement from the presidents of the country’s four HBCU medical schools and the nation’s largest associations for Black physicians and nurses. "We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people — and that we trust — has an impact on our very survival.”

The mistrust has historical underpinnings including, among other instances, government doctors purposefully not treating Black Alabamians with syphilis so they could see the late stage effects of the disease while misleading the patients for more than four decades.

Still, the doctors added, "Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones."

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