LOUISVILLE, Ky. - To work past decades of distrust, Black leaders in Louisville gathered to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The event, hosted at the Louisville Urban League, the small group heard from city health strategist Dr. Sarah Moyer, who explained only 30% of Black healthcare workers have received the vaccine, while 70% of their white counterparts have. Some of Wednesday’s vaccine recipients said they were cautiously optimistic.
"[I was] nervous, for sure; quite nervous, and nervous because of the history of medicine and Black people in America, said Hannah Drake, a prominent poet. "However, I understand COVID and I understand what we are dealing with. This is not going to magically disappear. It’s not going away."
Distrust toward medicine has evolved over decades of abuse by the federal government and parts of the medical world. In 1932, the US Public Health Service launched a misleading study on Black men and syphilis. Over 40 years, men living with syphilis were promised treatment for their cooperation, but shots given to them contained no medicine despite penicilin gaining wide use in 1947. Drake added that African-Americans remain disproportionately affected by medical conditions to this day, namely that Black women die during childbirth at least twice as often as white women.
Shanta King, who, like Drake, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine Wednesday, was also aprehensive, but wanted to motivate others in her city to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.
"Before I recommend the vaccination I had to go through it and take it," she said. "So, I figured I’d be a local guinea pig, and I did this with much prayer because I’m just as apprehensive as anybody else."
Kentucky is progressing into phase 1B of vaccinations - which includes teachers - as hopes of returning to schools appear on the horizon.