TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - There is a growing concern over vaccine hesitancy in minority communities. In addition to concerns about side effects and efficacy, a history of cruel medical practices is leading to fear over getting the shot for those in racial and ethnic minority communities.
“We’re all trying to figure out what we can do to get this education out to our community,” said Smith County Pct. 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton. “I think one thing you do is make sure that people who look like us are putting the word out.”
And East Texas leaders like UT Tyler President Dr. Kirk Calhoun are doing just that, by rolling up their sleeves to get the shot.
“We got in line and got vaccinated because that’s a message we definitely want to send out to our communities,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun said research shows that racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the virus, but recognizes the barrier of mistrust when it comes to the vaccine.
“A bit of a tainted history with regard to medical experimentation with African-Americans,” Calhoun said.
Experimentation like the Tuskegee Study, meant to record the natural progression of syphilis in Black men, but researchers never informed these men of the study or its real purpose. And they refused to offer treatment, even after penicillin became the drug of choice to treat syphilis.
“In that particular experiment, people were denied treatment when they had a serious illness so that physicians could study the long-term effects,” Calhoun said. “That is not the case here. We are trying to provide people with treatment to keep them from dying from this dreaded disease.”
A dreaded disease now challenged by a shot of hope that could save lives, and maybe even restore faith in healthcare and government for those wronged by it in the past.
“Even my own family has recently been touched by this. We lost a loved one to COVID. I don’t want to see others go through that,” Calhoun said.