There is outrage over a statement made by Melinda Gates, the wife of billionaire Bill Gates, suggesting that African American should be given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, second to healthcare workers once it is available.
She was earlier misinterpreted in a post on facebook to say that African American “must be vaccinated first.”
As vaccine research for the virus becomes more and more progressive, some researchers are already trying to determine to whom the shots should be administered to first. Many have said key national security officials, high-risk individuals, and essential workers should be prioritized.
In an interview with TIME Magazine on June 4, 2020, Gates said, “The first people that need this vaccine are the 60 million health care workers around the world. They deserve to get it before anybody else. Then you start tiering.” Answering the question of who has the highest need for COVID-19 vaccines after health care workers, Gates answered, “In the U.S., that would be black people next, quite honestly, and many other people of color. They are having disproportionate effects from COVID-19.”
It is true that studies show that African American people are more likely to have underlying health conditions and have jobs that require them to work outside the home. Aside from having a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 related cases, Black people are also more likely to contract and die from the virus.
However, many African Americans, in particular, are very skeptical about vaccines since they have been used by the U.S. government in the past to knowingly inject them with diseases. One famous example in history is the Tuskegee Experiment, a clinical study carried out between 1932 and 1972, where thousands of African American men in Alabama with syphilis were experimented on. Years later, a settlement of $10 million was awarded to the surviving participants.
Meanwhile in New York City, the wealthy, mostly white enclave of Gramercy Park in Manhattan has a rate of 31 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to data released by New York City’s health department; a long subway ride away in Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens, which is more than 40% African American and 25% Latino or Hispanic, the death rate is nearly 15 times higher: 444 deaths per 100,000 residents.
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