As skepticism threatens to stunt the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dusty Baker is urging one of the nation’s most at-risk communities to have faith in the life-saving effort.
The Houston Astros manager urged Black Americans on Monday to get vaccinated on the same day that Sandra Lindsay — a Black nurse in New York — became the nation’s first person to take the coronavirus vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
Baker applauded James Hildreth, a leading immunologist and a Black man who sat on the FDA panel that voted in favor of approving the emergency rollout of the Pfizer vaccine last week.
“There was an African American doctor that was in charge of the vaccine,” Baker told reporters Monday on a video call. “I felt more comfortable that he and other African Americans were on the boards to come up with the vaccine.”
“And he guaranteed that it wouldn’t be another Tuskegee kind of experiment. And he urged Black Americans to use the vaccine.”
What was the Tuskegee experiment?
Vaccine skepticism exists across multiple communities as misinformation about unfounded health threats of vaccines has undermined their use.
That skepticism carries added weight in some Black communities thanks to the Tuskegee experiment, an infamous 40-year study that started in 1932 that saw the U.S. Public Health Service mislead Black participants who were infected with syphilis about their health status. The study intentionally withheld proper treatment from its participants and ultimately saw some die from the disease.
Baker joins black voices advocating for COVID-19 vaccine
Baker’s assurance about the safety of the vaccine as one of MLB’s two Black managers and a leader in the Black community echoed that of Lindsay, who spoke to The New York Times about her decision to volunteer to be the first American to take the vaccine.
“That was the goal today,” Lindsay told the Times. “Not to be the first one to take the vaccine, but to inspire people who look like me, who are skeptical in general about taking vaccines.”
Black Americans at higher risk to coronavirus dangers
As experts express concern about distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Black community, Black Americans are more susceptible to the deadly consequences of the coronavirus than white Americans.
According to the CDC, Black Americans are 1.4 times more likely to contract COVID-19, 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized by the virus and 2.8 times more likely to die from the illness than their white counterparts. Socioeconomic status, access to health care and increased exposure to the coronavirus related to occupation play a role in the increased risk, per the CDC.
Baker addressed that increased risk as motivation for speaking up Monday.
“Because we are most susceptible to not only catching it, but dying from it,” Baker said.
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