Anti-Vaxxers Are Fueling Mistrust of COVID-19 Response in Black Communities
Erik Underwood joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in anti-vaccination activism.
- Underwood, an African American entrepreneur, developed skepticism that vaccines are not only dangerous, but also pose a unique threat to black children.
- Debate over a state bill, which tightens schoolchildrens’ exemptions from immunizations, demonstrated a significant alliance between the anti-vaccine movement and black leaders in Colorado.
- Kennedy, white parents, a local NAACP leader, and a prominent Black Lives Matter activist testified against the bill, though it ultimately passed.
- The coronavirus pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color. However, African Americans remain distrustful of a medical institution with a flawed history, including the Tuskegee syphilis study, surgical experiments on enslaved people, and current disparities in the U.S. health system.
- The anti-vaccination movement’s criticisms of a predatory pharmaceutical industry profiting from the ignorance of vulnerable people resonated with Theo Wilson, a Black Lives Matter activist.
- “Visions of Tuskegee still dance in our heads, man...because of our history in the medical community,” said Wilson.
The anti-vaccination alliance concerns public health officials.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert of the federal government, says that it is vital to build African Americans’ trust in the eventual vaccine and encourage their participation in the clinical trial to ensure safety across racial and ethnic groups.
“The United States of America has a history of testing on African American people,” said Del Bigtree, a national leader of the anti-vaccination movement.