On the latest episode of GBH's Basic Black, host Callie Crossley was joined by four doctors to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines and how to move beyond fear, history, and distrust of the medical community among people of color. It’s no secret that there has been a painful history that Black people have endured within the medical community, from the high-profile stories of the United States Public Health Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, to Henrietta Lacks. However, beyond those stories are the health disparities and everyday encounters that people of color have with the medical establishment. Those concerns persist at a time when getting a vaccine is critical for public health and safety. Crossley and her guests discuss how medical professionals can instill trust in communities of color and hopefully break the cultural barriers surrounding trust issues and taking the vaccine.
Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones — family doctor, epidemiologist, and a Harvard University fellow — shares how she ultimately came to the decision that the vaccine was worth getting.
“We in this country, especially people of color, live with a lot of uncertainty," Jones says. "I am willing to live with the uncertainty associated with the unknowns about the vaccine as a trade-off because it’s extremely effective as opposed to getting and dying from COVID-19… It’s a risk-benefit analysis.”
Dr. Cassandra Pierre, acting Hospital Epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, offers her insights on how vaccine rationing has become a major concern for communities of color.
“You have a differential in that vaccination number — that gap widens. You now have Black people infected at six times the rate of white people and dying at higher rates," Pierre says. "This cannot persist this way.”
GBH News Senior investigative reporter Phillip Martin also provides brief insights into how Wednesday’s breach of the U.S. Capitol is being viewed by people of color.
“It simply affirmed for Black people what Black people have always been saying — that police treat Black people and other people of color differently when it comes to ‘law and order,'" Martin says.
Dr. Holly Oh, Chief Medical Officer at The Dimock Center, also joins the conversation along with Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble, University Professor of Medical Humanities at George Washington University and a historian of American medicine, racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care, and bio ethics. Gamble was also the chair of the committee that obtained an apology from President Clinton for the United States Public Health Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.
Watch the full episode of Basic Black here.