Health officials say the U.S. faces an uphill battle in convincing some Americans to take a potential COVID-19 vaccine. While polling shows Americans have been more open to a vaccine in recent months, there is still skepticism in vaccines among non-whites across the country.
Experts say that Black people, in particular, remain skeptical of vaccines due to past failings of the U.S. healthcare system, in particular, the Tuskegee syphilis study. But the National Medical Association — a nonprofit representing the interests of Black doctors across the country — is trying to fight that skepticism ahead of the potential authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We're already suffering more than other community, and we would hate to see that suffering gap widen because members of our community did not affect to receive a vaccine that could have prevented kidney disease, prevented lung damage from COVID-19," Dr. Leon McDougle, the president of the National Medical Association said.
The National Medical Association's task force has been doing its own independent vetting of potential COVID-19 vaccines, and McDougle added they are doing so to ensure that politicians are not influencing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"We are trusted messengers for health in the Black community," McDougle said. "That's where we live. That's where we work, and we already have those established relationships."
The group has already had two meetings with Pfizer — the company, who on Wednesday, said it is days away from filing for Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine candidate — and has a third meeting planned.
The Association has also met with Moderna and AstraZeneca about their vaccine trials.
McDougle added that since the group has been having meetings with vaccine makers for a while, he's hopeful the Association will agree with the FDA's decisions.
McDougle says the National Medical Association has already been collaborating with clergy and other professional organizations that are looking to them for a direction on the vaccine.