As a large health organization A.R. Bernard that black He served as director of a mega-church in Brooklyn to serve on a committee designed to promote coronavirus vaccine adoption in color communities in New York City.
Bernard, who heads the Christian Cultural Center, the city's largest church, said he turned down the offer because he feared some members of his ward might see his participation as an "alliance with the system" to put African Americans "as guinea pigs" “For vaccines that were developed in record time.
Like most of the dozen black The faith leaders interviewed by Reuters, Bernard, have not yet wanted to show public support for a vaccination he believes he does not know enough about and risk compromising the trust of his community.
"We are concerned that it will be tested on people of color," said Bernard, referring to people who would receive the vaccine early on in its public launch. black The population consisted of approximately 10% of the volunteers in the vaccine trial compared to 13.4% of the US population.
The pastor was hospitalized with the virus in March and said he would wait for more information about the vaccine side effects.
The reluctance to recommend vaccination is therefore noticeable black Pastors have played a key role in educating their communities about the risks of the coronavirus for African Americans, who are 2.8 times more likely to die from it than white Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Public health officials hope black Faith leaders and others black Role models will help alleviate strong skepticism among African Americans about the safety of the vaccine, which is being distributed across the country. The shots are crucial in ending a pandemic that has killed more than 320,000 Americans to date, health experts say.
Only 49% of black Americans would be interested in taking it, compared to 63% of white Americans, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll earlier this month. The survey found that black People like whites are put off by the speed of coronavirus vaccine development and the Trump administration's messed up coronavirus response. The black Pastors also cited deep distrust of the medical facility among members of their communities.
"We're dealing with the by-product of … generations of suspicion, suspicion, and fear about the way medical systems work," said Edwin Sanders, public relations director for the Metropolitan International Church in Nashville, Tennessee has had health education since HIV / AIDS in the 1980s.
The distrust stems from decades of unequal access and treatment, medical underrepresentation in clinical trials, and a record of being used as ignorant test subjects, such as in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which lasted until 1972 and withheld syphilis treatment of those infected black Men without their knowledge.
Pastors said that story has raised fears that the coronavirus vaccine may not work black Americans, or that they get a different shot than the rest of society.
"I can't tell my people in good faith to accept this wholesale trade, but I'm also not trying to support any kind of baseless conspiracy theories." It's a tightrope walk I have to walk here, ”said Earle Fisher, pastor of the Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church, a congregation of about 50 people in Memphis, Tennessee.
Of the dozen black Church leaders interviewed all said they believed the vaccine was necessary to end the crisis, but only one was willing to provide direct support at this point.
Most said they wanted more information so they could educate their community members about how the vaccine works in the body, where to get it, and possible side effects.
"As a pastor and health worker, I can see why people should take it because of the devastation I've seen. But I also understand why the African American community doesn't trust them because we've been treated in the past," said Reginald Belton of the First Baptist Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn, who also provides pastoral care at a hospital.
Belton said he planned to take the vaccine and would like to provide more information to his members about it, but he didn't say he would support him.
The importance of black Religious leaders in promoting the vaccine were underscored in a CDC report earlier this month that found health officials succeeded in working with African American churches to educate medically underserved communities.
black Churches have long played a vital role in the social well-being of black Americans, perhaps best known during the civil rights movement.
BUILDING CONFIDENCE IN CORONAVIRUS VACCINE
The Pastors According to an interview with Reuters, local government and other officials need to build trust with their faith communities in order to increase vaccine uptake among citizens black American.
Elijah Hankerson III, director of the Life Center International of the Church of God in Christ in St. Louis, Missouri, said the results of clinical studies showing the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are greater than 90% effective not enough to encourage him to get a vaccine.
But if St. Louis officials vouched for the vaccine and his legal team and church health unit said it's okay, Hankerson would promote it on his webcasts and social media, which collectively reach an audience of about 70,000.
"Data is one thing," said Hankerson, who lost his uncle and two colleagues to the virus. "If there are people that we trust, who can vouch for it and say, 'Hey, this is for the good of the people, bring this out,' then we wouldn't mind doing that."
The National Medical Association, an organization of black Health care providers tried to give that assurance black Americans on Monday when they announced support for the urgent U.S. government approval of the Pfizer and Moderna shots following an independent review of clinical trial data.
Anthony Evans, the President of the National black Church Initiative, a coalition trying to narrow healthcare disparities, he predicted black Churches would eventually come on board to mobilize, to get people vaccinated.
Some religious leaders, despite their own hesitation, encourage the vaccine because they see little alternative.
Pastor George Waddles of the Second Baptist Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a ward of about 400 people, has previously doubted vaccines. He got his first flu shot in 2019 because he had previously believed it could make him sick.
But seeing the suffering caused by the coronavirus has motivated him to encourage his community members to take a leap of faith and get vaccinated.
"We have three options," recalled Waddles of a virtual call to prayer earlier this month. "Inoculation, Isolation, or Decimation."
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Makini Brice in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin and Cynthia Osterman)