OPINION

Your Black life matters, so get a vaccine

The Examiner

I get the hesitation, the fear, and the distrust. I do.

The story of Black Americans and the medical establishment has not been a good one.

Charita Goshay

It began with enslaved persons being turned into guinea pigs by doctors who took a vow to do no harm. Fast forward to the Tuskegee Experiment, a decades-long, government-run atrocity that allowed innocent Black men to suffer and needlessly die from untreated syphilis. 

In the 1990s, descendants of Henrietta Lacks were informed that her tissue had been used for cell-regeneration experiments following her death in 1951 without their knowledge, permission or compensation.

Add to that, a history of separate-but-unequal hospitals, inequity in treatment and poor access to quality care.

We won't even go into the conspiracy theories about HIV and crack cocaine.

According to the CDC, the life expectancy for Black Americans is shorter and Black mothers are much more likely to die in childbirth than others.

All that said, if you are Black, you need to get the COVID-19 vaccine – if you can find it.

The great irony in all this is that the people who are the most likely to die from COVID-19 have had the least access to the vaccine because of who they are and where they live. 

One would think that a country that moves armies around the world could come up with a better distribution strategy than "Whack-A-Mole Meets Who's-On-First?" 

At this rate, it will take more time to administer the vaccine than it did to develop it.

It's often said that when white America catches a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that although Blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, they comprise 23% of all COVID-19 cases, with recovery made more difficult by such comorbidities as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and asthma.

The National Urban League's newest "State of Black America" reports that Black Americans contract COVID-19 at three times the rate of whites, and are twice as likely to die from the virus.

It further states that the rate of infection for Blacks is at 62 people per 10,000, almost three times the rate for whites, which stands at 23 per 10,000. Latinos have an even higher rate at 73 per 10,000.

One factor may be that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to live in multigenerational households.

In a perfect example of why the past matters, just 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latinos are reported to be willing to take the vaccine.

Giving yourself a chance to survive one of the worst pandemics in modern history is worth the risk.

In his iconic hymn, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," James Weldon Johnson recounted the Black American experience: 

"We have endured things that would have destroyed most other people. Ours is a history written in blood, tears, toil – and resilience."

Doing all we can to survive is one way of honoring those who did not live to see this day.

Reach Charita Goshay at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.