3 Ways to Hold Space for Black People With Vaccine Doubts
Encouraging vaccination will take patience, accountability, and empathy — and these strategies
Few modern medical interventions have ever been discussed as broadly or urgently as the Covid-19 vaccine, and with the rollout underway, conversations across platforms are covering everything from enthusiasm to fears to doubts to hesitancy. Though hesitancy is on the decline, vaccine mistrust still exists, including among Black people around the world.
The science is clear — the approved vaccines are safe and effective — but it will take more than just data to put fears to rest. It’s also important to address these fears at community level. In order to address mistrust some Black people have, it’s important to understand its root causes, and it’s critical to hold space for ourselves to ask questions, find answers, seek accountability, and be free of the scrutiny that takes responsibility off systemic racism and places it at our feet.
Ahead, a few expert perspectives (including my own) about what that space might look like.
“We are not simply untrusting — we remember.”
1. Acknowledge the history of racism within health care — and that it persists
Black global health and health care professionals and community organizers remind us that merely expecting full vaccine uptake without engaging in nuance will only perpetuate social injustice. Annabel Sowemimo, a community sexual and reproductive health doctor in Leicestershire, U.K., and founder of Decolonising Contraception, says: “I think we have to acknowledge that Black people are not a monolith but our shared experience of navigating the world as Black people often makes us acutely aware of the prejudice in some systems — one of which is health care.”
In a recent article in The Lancet, Kimberly D. Manning, MD, the descendant of enslaved people and a fourth-generation Tuskegee University graduate, speaks about participating in a trial for a Covid-19 vaccine, highlighting the legacy left behind by medical and scientific racism. Manning writes that “acknowledging every aspect of the…