The Tuskegee Study took place in 1932. What are the implications with COVID -19 in 2020?

COVID – 19 has killed over 200,000 people in the United States. Black people in particular are 2.9 times more likely to die than their white counterparts. 

 Numerous efforts are being made toward a vaccine, but before it can be released to all, a few i’s have to be dotted. 

Clinical trials have to be reflective of the entire population, meaning that black people are crucial to the advancement of a vaccine. Despite this, African Americans have valid rationale to be hesitant about any form of immunization. 

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study took place in Macon County Alabama. Where 600 black men were falsely promised free medical care, but never forcefully given Syphilis. The real issue came when doctors and physicians consciously did not treat any syphilitic individuals. By ignoring their needs, the disease ultimately spreads through generations. 

When the fathers went home, they passed it to their wives. The women would then unknowingly give it to their children. 

As new bloodlines continued to emerge, some descendants of the participants felt the effects too. Anyone from great grandchildren to distant family that migrated out of Alabama could have been hurt. Now, those grandchildren are experiencing the effects of a vaccine is controlled by politics not public health.

The study itself has been linked to an increased likelihood that black men will receive substandard health outcomes. 

And such devastation has already begun to reset its head with the virus. Most notably, in areas from Louisiana to Chicago, where health care seeking behavior is less prevalent. 

From being far more susceptible to mild symptoms, or not seeking out proper treatment as a result of faith in conspiracy theories. Scarce resources mean that there are little doctors trusted to take care of them. 

So when you hear a black person say “That vaccine’s contents are not fully disclosed”, you need to listen. Such opinions are voiced because they are valid. Not for acclaim or out of fear. 

As of now, individuals with similar socioeconomic status to the Tuskegee Study may be facing similar situations. Dying at higher rates than other minority groups from COVID-19, life expectancy has been reduced heavily as a result of the study. 

Much talk has been taking place about a vaccine for Coronavirus and clinical trials are needed in order for progress to be made. But for anything to be distributed to the public, clinical trials must be representative of the population. Long story short, black people are crucial for a successful and effective COVID – 19 vaccination.

 Not solely for demographic reasons, but equally for epigenetics. If epidemiologists and public health experts can analyze how genetic factors are affected by drugs, then history won’t repeat itself. 

Modern day ethics of medicine can be furthered. And if the nation faces a resurgence of the virus, negative outcomes can be reduced. 

Around the Chapel Hill Carrboro Area, perspectives were provided from two former educators of Carrboro. 

John Alcox, a health teacher, shared his valid concerns around the frequency of vaccine testing. 

 “A projection for a November vaccine is too far of a reach,” said Alcox. 

With way too many possible side effects, there is little comfort in attempts to speed up the overall process. The medical history of the U.S. is encompassing a distrust between doctors and patients of color. And such was even more prevalent during the 1930s. 

Black families would go out of their way to seek care from someone that looked like them, understandably so. 

Sheremy Dillard, a physical education instructor,  provided me with a personal connection of hers that was never considered. Growing up in Durham, everything around her was mostly headed up by black people. 

Therefore, she had always looked to black doctors.

As well as doing her best to find a doctor of color whenever possible. 

Seeing that this practice is still in place was an interesting perspective to get. Considering that most people may have overlooked such a driving factor behind such a critical choice. 

Where we receive our education is predominantly white. Although steps are being taken to increase awareness of disparities around us, the privilege to not care is still lingering. 

Simply because it does not impact them. Less influence on one’s life, equivocates to a decrease in personal interest. Based on this knowledge, curiosity materialized about what should be done to bring more awareness that the medical field is inherently prejudicial. 

In reflecting on the practices of medical schools everywhere, it was critical for “Additional resources need to be provided to gather a greater understanding into the bias of medicine.” In making an effort to be more inclusive with our medical textbooks,”said Alcox. As well as having doctors be more engaged in “Anti bias and stereotype training”. 

Typecasting must be eliminated in order to build better trust between communities. Period. If white doctors were willing to subconsciously acknowledge a historical lack of equality when treating patients, mistrust could be drastically reduced. 

As a whole, black people want the same kind of doctors that white people receive. That’s all. Such efforts are critical within the doctor’s office, but what about professional boards and hearings.

 More Americans need to be seen on “Medical boards across the country.” In the midst of a global pandemic, the “CDC, WHO and FDA needs additional inclusion of doctors of color”. I mean they are the one’s working for the American population. So why shouldn’t the residents look like those staying home affected by the crisis?

As Coronavirus continues to disrupt communities of color on a socioeconomic level. From the highest income bracket to the poorest families. There needs to be a greater allocation of resources for black and brown people.

 While keeping this in mind, it was reminded that “Past experience speaks for itself in situations such as this,”said Dillard.

That is how we as a society must approach such challenging times. Look back to see what worked and what did not. Never solely for one type of American but for all shades, hues and tones of Americans. 

Anything ranging from food and water insecurity to unemployment has to be prioritized more. Specifically in predominantly black communities such as Durham, there needs to be more acknowledgment of one thing. 

“Some people need a one  on one approach when it comes to construction in communities,”said Alcox.

In essence, some individuals may not know where to get proper materials to stay COVID – 19 free. Or seek out healthcare services when they get sick. 

A hauntingly real reminder soon emerged. That “Marginalized populations are still genuinely pigs for most medical practices,”said Alcox.

Communities of color are the first one’s looked at when it comes to testing. Have you ever stopped to consider why this is? Or how it can be changed as time moves forward? It is up to you to determine where the change begins. 

Do students need to be educated in their general history classes? Or should doctors be taught the history of medicine in greater detail from multiple perspectives? The medical history and evidence is there. We as a country just have to be willing to make something of it. In doing so, we can begin to dot the first i.


Black men that participated in the Tuskegee Study

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