America is struggling with a deep gap between the number of white and black people getting vaccinated. So far, more than half of the vaccines went to white Americans and only a meager 5 percent to people in the black community. This inequality is due not only to the fact that the vaccine is less accessible to African-Americans, but also to a deep-seated mistrust of the medical world.
A little boy runs after his big brother in the boxing ring. Above it hangs a banner with the motto “No hooks before books”; if you want to box, you have to do their homework first.
Founder Marvin McDowell‘s boxing school is located in one of the poorest parts of Baltimore. This is much more than just a place to train, it is also a kind of community centre for many young people in the neighborhood. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure they make the right choices,” says McDowell. That doesn‘t include getting a shot in your arm against the coronavirus, according to him.
“ I don’t trust it. The stuff they develop for us is likely to kill us anyway,” says boxing school holder Martin McDowell. “Have you ever heard of Tuskegee?”
McDowell refers to a notorious experiment that took place in Tuskegee, Alabama. In this study, white scientists promised free care to 600 poor black men in exchange for their participation. For forty years, they were deliberately not treated against syphilis because the researchers wanted to study the course of that disease.
The participants were not told about the true nature of the experiment. Many of them became blind, received mental disorders or died from the consequences of the disease. And it‘s not the only unethical experiment that has been conducted on black people. Moreover, in 1997 President Clinton apologized on behalf of the US government for Tuskegee’s experiment, which he clearly called ‘racist. ‘
This past gives rise to a lot of mistrust within the black community, says McDowell to correspondent Marieke de Vries:
In one of the black districts of Washington, D.C., Reverend Kendrick Curry talks to the people who gather in the parking lot next to his church. This neighborhood has been hardest hit by corona, while the least people are vaccinated here. “Many people are superstitious or get wrong information. There are rumors around everywhere that are based on negative events in the past.”
Curry opened a temporary vaccination clinic at his church, an azure container in the parking lot. In this way, he hopes to reach more people in his community. “Many people are superstitious or get wrong information. There are rumors around everywhere that are based on negative events in the past.” The district where the church is located is hardest hit by the pandemic, but the least people are vaccinated.
“ We are here not only to hand out the vaccine, but also to discourage myths and combat disinformation. This way, as a community, we can take a step forward,” says Curry.
According to him, it is important for celebrities such as Vice President Harris or basketball player Michael Jordan to set an example and be publicly vaccinated. Curry says it‘s even more important for people in the neighborhood to take the lead.
“ It’s precisely the dominees, the local entrepreneurs, the neighborhood shops… It‘s the conversations at the hairdresser or at the cosmetologist. They will make the difference.”
Boxing schoolkeeper McDowell himself lost two family members to corona, yet he knows for sure. “I’m not taking it.” And he is not alone, more than half of the black Americans let know yet to doubt the vaccine.
The large difference in the rate of vaccination between population groups poses a major challenge for the Biden Government. On his second day as president, Biden signed a decree to tackle racial inequality. In addition, he has appointed special advisors to focus on health care.
The debate on vaccinations within the black community is part of a long, complicated history. “People don‘t forget that,” says Reverend Curry. “But I want everyone to understand why we need to do this. It’s a matter of life or death.”