The New COVID-19 Vaccine Will Save Lives 

By Curtis L. Ivery

 

 

We’re approaching a fork in the road. After much anticipation, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved extensively-researched COVID-19 vaccines. I plan to take it as soon as it is my turn, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I see this measure as the first step toward a global recovery and a chance to restore normalcy to our lives.

 

However, a sizeable portion of the population is not reacting to this good news like the good news it is. Instead of hope, they are buying into conspiracy theories. Rather than optimism, they are responding with distrust, disdain, and, in some instances, fear. According to a recent study, only 14 percent of African Americans think the vaccine will be safe and only 18 percent believe it will be effective.

 

This makes me shake my head in despair. While I understand the concerns, and recognize the reasons behind the skepticism of the Black community and other people of color, now is not the time to avoid health care recommendations. Nor is it the time to lean heavily on biases that are rooted in our past.

 

True, our troubled history in this country contains more than one example of negligence and betrayal by the medical profession. The most famous case, of course, is the 40-year Tuskegee scandal involving 600 black men in Macon, Alabama. They were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” yet some were receiving a placebo and others injected with syphilis.

 

However, the Tuskegee Experiment that began in the 1930s, has absolutely nothing to do with a highly-touted remedy of 2020 that could halt the spread of a life-threatening disease. African Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID -19 and, along with Native Americans, have experienced the highest death rates. A vaccine will not exacerbate this problem. It will control it.

 

Although it is important to learn from yesterday’s trials and errors, if we dwell on those mistakes, we are creating a cycle of overreaction that could do more harm than good. The current vaccine is not a testament to societal and racial inequity. It is a viable attempt to end a pandemic. At this point, we need to be future focused. We need to be proactive as we explore ways to preserve our health and wellbeing.

 

That means opening our minds to progress, being willing to adapt and doing our own due-diligence when necessary. Looking back, the outcome of mass COVID-19 vaccinations today actually could parallel crises that occurred in the 1900s when Small Pox was globally eradicated by mandated vaccinations. Similarly, a 1950s vaccine for Polio (once considered one of the most threatening diseases of childhood) proved to be nearly 90 percent successful in preventing infections.

 

Based on my findings, Pfizer and Moderna have developed safe and effective vaccines. The Moderna vaccine was created by a Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a leading scientist with a coronavirus vaccine research team at Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Health. To meet the approval of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drugs that are being administered to the public must pass industry standards.

 

Science, not politics, led to an expedited and unprecedented collaboration between researchers, health care providers, regulators, and insurance companies. This resulted in the vaccines being produced at a higher-than-normal speed. As a Black husband, father, and grandfather, I applaud their genius. Because of their intense, round-the-clock exertion, our families can feel safer. Likewise, so can essential workers, first responders, people of all walks of life. As chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD), I am pleased that my staff and students at all educational levels can move forward.

 

I am convinced that the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is for all individuals to take the vaccine and continue to demonstrate personal responsibility regarding COVID-19 protocols such as the wearing of masks, maintaining social distance, and regular handwashing. We are being warned that some of the deadliest months of COVID-19 may lie ahead, and so we must remain vigilant while doing all we can to protect ourselves and support the greater good of society.

 

I see the new vaccine as, perhaps, one of the most important milestones of this century—but it can’t work if we don’t give it a try. Let’s not allow memories of our grandparent’s struggles cause us to reject life-sustaining treatment in the here and now. The Black community needs this safeguard and, therefore, the Black community and all other communities should welcome it.

 

Do not confuse the solution with the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

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