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Sabtu, 12 Desember 2020

Why the Americans who need the coronavirus vaccine most are so suspicious of it - ABC News

Fred Spry will tell you that his barber shop is more than just a barber shop.

It's a sanctuary, a place where his customers return weekly for a comforting cultural ritual. It's a community centre where news is traded like currency.

And lately, this little space just north of Washington DC has become an unlikely battleground in America's war against coronavirus.

"Black men have trust issues with the vaccine," Mr Spry says. "They say they're not going to take it."

But his customers do trust their barber.

He had more than 700 clients before the pandemic, some of which have been coming to him for nearly 20 years, sitting in the chair for 30 or 40 minutes a week, opening up about the sort of topics that lead to deep friendships.

"I just try to convince them to take it," he said of the vaccine.

"I try to reason with them. I say: 'Look, you need to get this protection not just for you but for everyone around you.'"

For a country that's seen nearly 300,000 deaths and more than 50 million job losses from COVID-19, hope looks more and more like little glass vials and needles.

But with the country beginning injections this week, hesitation towards taking the vaccine is tempering optimism it'll work — especially in the communities who've suffered the most.

"People are scared," Mr Spry said.

"They're watching to see what happens."

Communities hit hardest most sceptical of vaccine

Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at double the rate of their white counterparts, being more susceptible to the virus because of the long-term impacts of structural racism.

They're more likely to be employed in service jobs and have underlying health conditions.

A man in a black shirt with glasses next to a barber shop pole.
Fred Spry says he tries to convince his clients that they need the vaccine to protect themselves and others around them.(ABC News: Dickon Mager)

But they're also more likely to be sceptical of the measure heralded as the best chance of ending the virus.

Researchers say it's hard to get an accurate measure of vaccine hesitation given the pace at which new information is coming out.

Studies conducted in the past month show just a quarter of black Americans are committed to taking the COVID vaccine, compared to half of Americans overall.

Sandra Crouse Quinn, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies racial disparity in health, says the best parallel is not childhood vaccines but the flu vaccination.

In 2019, only 39 per cent of black adults got that injection.

Estimates for reaching herd immunity from COVID-19 vary, but America's top disease expert, Anthony Fauci said roughly 75 per cent of the US population needed to be injected before the country could "approach some degree of normality".

Dr Quinn said when it came to the flu shot, "trust is related to perceived risk of getting the flu and perceived risk of the vaccine side effects. I think we'll see the same thing with coronavirus".

'Perceived' is the key word. The science on the safety and efficacy of vaccines like the flu shot is settled.

Before COVID-19 entered the equation, a study from the US Centers for Disease Control found that vaccinations prevented more than 322 million illnesses in a 20-year period.

Anti-vax movement may be targeting communities of colour

And yet the US regularly sees outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. It saw more than 1,200 measles cases just last year — the biggest number in three decades.

Researchers have directly connected those outbreaks to misinformation spread by a growing movement of people who believe in debunked theories, including one that suggests vaccines can cause autism.

Public health officials worry that the anti-vaccination movement, which already made inroads with the anti-lockdown protesters, may now be targeting communities of colour.

Dr Fauci said it was "of great concern" to him.

"If there's anyone you want to get vaccinated, and anyone for whom vaccination would be most beneficial, it would be for the people [anti-vaccination activists] who are trying to influence not to get vaccinated," he said.

As the COVID vaccine trials were roaring ahead this summer, a prominent anti-vaccination organisation known as the Children's Health Defense Fund planned a forum in the historically black neighbourhood of Harlem, New York.

They invited a high-profile black civil rights leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton, to headline the event.

Reverend Sharpton originally accepted, but later backed out. His spokesperson said that "both sides of this argument need to be presented and heard".

In California, the Children's Health Defense Fund likened a campaign they led against a new vaccine bill to the fight for racial justice.

Overwhelmingly white crowds walked through the state capitol singing the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcame.

They chanted: "No segregation, no discrimination, yes on education for all".

In fighting a similar bill in Colorado, the organisation spoke to the state legislation alongside a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and local NAACP leader — a team the national media would later describe as "a remarkable new alliance between the anti-vaccine movement and black leaders".

Erik Underwood, a tech entrepreneur who was also among the non-white speakers in the room, said he started researching vaccines after being approached by a woman connected with the Children's Health Defense Fund during a failed campaign for the US Senate.

A man in a white shirt, black mask and black cap watching as a man cuts another man's hair in a barber shop
Ronald Shields (seated) says he is going to wait until at least 75 per cent of the country has taken the vaccine.(ABC News: Dickon Mager)

He bristled at the suggestion he had been targeted by the organisation and wanted to make clear he was still open to taking the COVID vaccine. He just didn't feel he had all the information.

"I deal in facts. I don't deal in conspiracy theories or conjecture. I did my own research and reading," he said.

"There are concerns that I have with big pharma, and I believe that my concerns are common sense questions related to transparency."

He'll be waiting to see what happens next, he said.

US has a long history of medical racism

Regardless of what happens next, any US vaccination efforts will also have to contend with what's happened in the past.

"Long before we had social media and the channels for misinformation, racial and ethnic minority communities have had reasons to distrust medical professionals," Dr Quinn said.

"There's two things going on. People have experienced discrimination firsthand. And they know the history."

The firsthand discrimination stems from the fact that only 6 per cent of US doctors are black, despite black Americans accounting for 13 per cent of the population.

The lack of representation has real consequences. A 2016 study found that roughly half of white medical students made false statements about biological differences based on race. Other studies have found that black patients with serious ailments are less likely to receive painkillers.

Underlying the present mistreatment is America's long, dark history of medical racism — one that's so familiar to minority communities that it often surfaces in conversations as one example: The Tuskegee Experiment.

In 1932, researchers in Alabama began a 40-year clinical study into syphilis. They recruited 600 black men, 399 of which had syphilis, and told them they were going to receive free treatment for "bad blood".

The men never received treatment, even when a cure was discovered about a decade in. Not only did hundreds of men suffer, but some of their wives and children contracted the disease.

Then there's Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were harvested without her permission and used to make millions in profits. And there's example after example of African American slaves being used for medical experiments.

The waiting came comes with a big risk

Back in Fred Spry's barber shop, the conversation around the vaccine keeps coming back to one point: everyone is ready for the pandemic to be over.

"I just recently decided I'm for sure going to take it. I want to travel," Mr Spry says to his shop manager, Carl Purvis Jr.

Mr Purvis is going to take it too, he says. He just wants to "wait to see what happens to other people first".

A man in the barber chair, Ronald Shields, pipes in.

"I'm ex-military so the [Veteran's Affairs Hospital] is probably going to ask us to come in soon. But I won't. I'm going to wait. I'm going to wait until three-fourths of the country takes it at least," he says.

Mr Spry is confident that with enough of these conversations — exchanges between trusted friends in a safe setting — his customers will change their minds.

He's one of several barbers who's received training from a local university on how to discuss health matters like this.

"Once they see someone like me take it and be fine, they're going to change their minds," he said.

"It's just going to take time."

But in a country like the US, the waiting game comes with risk.

The nine months of trying to wait out a pandemic have only proved that public perception is more powerful than cold hard science.

Medical experts know far more now about preventing the spread — but the spread of the virus is only getting worse, and fast. Daily case counts broke three records in the past two weeks alone.

"The waiting means that the perceived risk for so many people is only going to grow. The devastation in these communities is only going to continue," Dr Quinn predicts.

"I think people are going to feel like they have no choice but to take it. The house is on fire."


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https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiaGh0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmFiYy5uZXQuYXUvbmV3cy8yMDIwLTEyLTEzL3doeS1zb21lLWFtZXJpY2Fucy1kaXN0cnVzdC1jb3ZpZC0xOS1jb3JvbmF2aXJ1cy12YWNjaW5lLzEyOTc1MDQ00gEnaHR0cHM6Ly9hbXAuYWJjLm5ldC5hdS9hcnRpY2xlLzEyOTc1MDQ0?oc=5

2020-12-12 22:53:00Z
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