The legacy of the infamous 40-year Tuskegee experiment—in which Black men in Alabama told they were getting free medical care were actually being used for a study of untreated syphilis—lingers to this day in New York City, where young Black people are far more reluctant than white or Latino residents to get vaccinated. In interviews with the New York Times, dozens of Black New Yorkers said distrust of the government made them wary of COVID vaccines, and many cited Tuskegee. According to city figures, only 27% of Black residents between 18 and 44 years old are vaccinated, compared to 48% of Latinos and 52% of whites. Some Black residents say their mistrust grew when there were issues with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was used at many pop-up clinics in minority neighborhoods.
"It reaffirmed my hesitance, it reaffirmed everything," Jazmine Shavuo-Goodwin, who helps manage Medicaid dental clinics, tells the Times. "It just shows Black lives don't matter. You can test that on us just like you tested syphilis on us." With the delta surge expected to hit Black New Yorkers hard, the city has stepped up programs reaching out to that group, and many of the vaccine-hesitant say they'll probably get vaccinated eventually because of the city's strict new vaccine mandate, which will require proof of vaccination to enter indoor spaces such as gyms and restaurants. The Washington Post reports that a recent Kaiser poll found that nationwide, Black Americans make up around 13% of the unvaccinated population and are only slightly more hesitant than white Americans about COVID vaccines. (Read more coronavirus stories.)