The dynamics on display in Denver have nationwide implications as scientists race to create a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, which has taken a disproportionately steep toll on people of color. Although African Americans stand to benefit enormously from a vaccine, they remain distrustful of a medical establishment with a history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis study and surgical experiments on enslaved people — not to mention the ongoing disparities they confront in the U.S. health-care system.
The possibility that anti-vaccination leaders — who have already made common cause with those dismissing the risks of the pandemic and protesting state safety restrictions — could further undermine faith in a vaccine among people of color is profoundly worrisome for public health officials.
“Visions of Tuskegee still dance in our heads, man,” Wilson said in an interview. “There is, in the black community, common cause — much larger than people would think — because of our history in the medical community.”