Commentary: Black Americans need to be part of vaccine research

Commentary: Black Americans need to be part of vaccine research
September 09
12:15 2020

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., President and CEO, National Newspapers Publishers Association

The unrelenting spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the United States of America in 2020 continues to pose an unprecedented public health crisis for all Americans, but in particular for Black Americans and other people of color who are disproportionately negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Earlier this year, there were just too many myths and other misinformation circulating primarily via social media falsely asserting that “Black people and people of African descent were immune to COVID-19 because of the presence of melanin.” Of course, that assertion is not true. Yet, unfortunately, too many people in our communities began to risk infection to COVID-19 because of falsehoods and misinformation.

Since Freedom’s Journal was first published in March of 1827, the Black Press has remained on the front lines of publishing and speaking truth to power by demanding freedom, justice and equality.

All of this brings me to state categorically, “Black Americans have to be involved at all levels of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to be silent, detached, denied, or prevented from being at the decision-making tables in terms of COVID-19-based public health policies, research, clinical trials, remedies, and vaccine development. Our lives and future are at stake.”

The good news is that today there are many Black American physicians, infectious disease scholars, clinicians, medical researchers, nurses and others on the front lines as first responders and as leaders inside the major pharmaceutical companies that are striving to develop a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19.

We are profoundly aware that within our communities there has been a historical and contemporary distrust of medical research. However, the challenge today is for more Black Americans to be involved at every point of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that the medical rights and interests of Black Americans are thoroughly protected, respected, and addressed effectively and truthfully.

In other words, Black American engagement is crucial and critical in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine — including participation in clinical trials — to make sure that the new vaccine is effective to prevent Blacks and others from COVID-19 infections.

It is urgent that in the strategic rush to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine for all people that Black Americans are not left out of the process. The health of our families and communities necessitates our involvement to raise all the questions that need to be raised, and at the same time to participate responsibly in the COVID-19 clinical trials.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at

EDITOR’S NOTE: Locally, Wake Forest Health and PMG Research are both conducting vaccine studies and enrolling participants. For information on the Wake Health study, call 336-713-7888 or email For information on the PMG study, call 336-768-8062.

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