BET Reports On COVID-19

As the fight against coronavirus pandemic continues, BET.com provides updated information about the vaccine, testing, and the progress made by health officials and the U.S. federal government and efforts across the Black Diaspora. 

Check back daily for updates on what is being done to help the Black community survive and plans to end the pandemic. For more information, read last year’s BET.com Coronavirus Blog.

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Black Texas Lawmaker, Who Is Also A Nurse, Backs Coronavirus Vaccine

Monday, Jan. 4, 2021: As the coronavirus vaccine continues to roll out among health care workers and the elderly, skepticism continues to loom in the Black community. After all, there is a long history of inappropriate tests performed on Black people fueled by past racist practices sanctioned by federal and state funded medical and scientific bodies. 

Democratic Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a longtime advocate of sound science and healthcare in the Black community, is stepping out to ease the concerns many African Americans have about the coronavirus vaccine.

“Consult with people who have the credentials to answer the questions — not emotional questions, not political questions, but medical questions,” the Democrat, who represents Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News. “When they get information from people they trust, they will feel confident about it.”

Johnson, became the first registered nurse elected to Congress in 1993, and is also Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. But with experiences steeped in healthcare in the Black community, she says she understands why there is mistrust among so many.

“There’s great skepticism for experimentation,” Johnson told the Morning News. “They have a history of being abused. They have a history of not being included in field testing. I don’t have any doubt that there will be questions.”

Incidents like the infamous Tuskegee Experiment where a group of Black men infected with syphilis were not treated for decades, and the use of Baltimore woman Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells for biomedical research, still resound among African Americans. So there is fear that the experimentation will continue through this vaccine.

RELATED: COVID-19 Vaccine: Dr. Anthony Fauci Gets Why Black People Are Weary After Tuskegee Experiment

Johnson however wants to get the word out that the  the coronavirus vaccines are in fact safe and not a part of any sinister experiment. The testing and research have included African Americans at the administrative and scientific levels, she said. One of them was Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who works with top government infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“That information, we can distribute very quickly through our churches and through our networks of notification,” said Johnson. “That’s the kind of intelligence that you’ve got to get to the people so they will understand it from people they trust.”

Slowly, more African Americans have said that they would take a vaccine once available. In October, only 43 percent said they would get it, according to a survey from Fierce Pharma. But a December poll by the Kaiser Foundation showed that number increased to 62 percent.

Johnson says that she would get the vaccine when it becomes available to her and believes now that it is being distributed, there is hope.

“I do believe that we have reached a point where we can see some light at the end of the tunnel,” she told the Morning News.

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