With recent polls showing Black people remain far less open to taking a COVID-19 vaccine than other racial groups, a group of African American leaders from the West Side of Chicago on Sunday urged people to take the vaccine, saying Sunday they trusted it and would take it once they could.
In fact, Congressman Danny Davis said he already has had a first dose and that he is feeling fine. He said he would not have done so if he was worried that it was unsafe, and said he hopes his experience can be an example for others.
“I say put away your fears, put away your concerns and let’s make use of what the greatest scientists known to humankind have been able to produce,” he said at a press conference held by the West Side Black Elected Officials committee.
Now that two vaccines have been authorized for emergency use, the number of people who say they would get vaccinated has been increasing. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in early-December shows that 71% of those surveyed say they would take it if it is safe and available for free, up from the 63% who said they would in a late September poll.
While Black people are more willing now than they were in September to get the vaccine, with 62% saying they would --- up from 50% in September --- 35% still say they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists, according to the poll.
Davis and other leaders said that they understand this hesitancy. He referenced the Tuskegee experiment in which Black men were not told they had syphilis and were not treated for decades, even though penicillin could cure the disease.
Davis said the Tuskegee experiment was just one of many Drakonian incidents in history which have defiled and devalued Black people.
“But we also know that changes have been put in place, apologies have been made and safeguards are being used,” he said. Davis said he was heartened to see that the first vaccines in Chicago were done at Loretto Hospital in Austin on the West Side.
City treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin said people should get the vaccine so that their lives can more quickly return to normal.
“As soon as I am able to take the first dose of the vaccination, please know that myself, my husband and certainly elderly mother, who has medical challenges…We will be there promptly because it is that important,” she said. “I live for the day when we can all sit together as family. I live for the day when we can all hug each other.”
Alderman Emma Mitts said it is crucial that people consider getting vaccinated, not just for themselves, but so that they don’t spread the coronavirus to others.
Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.