Commentary: Let us hope the vaccine beats COVID-19

Commentary: Let us hope the vaccine beats COVID-19
December 16
12:09 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

We have been in various phases of lockdown and shutdown since March. Our movements have been inhibited and our lifestyles have been rearranged.

Wearing a mask has become a no-brainer. Going into a store automatically means that we must practice social distancing. That is just the way it is.

The month of December has always been celebrated as the holiday season. The vaccine is now here as well. The CDC advisers voted to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, signed off on it Sunday. According to reports, the first shipments of the vaccine happened late Sunday.

First responders will be the first in line to receive the vaccine, after which those of us who have pre-existing conditions will receive it. In the coming months, those in the general population will receive the vaccine. Reports say that children under sixteen years of age will be the last to receive it.

A survey given recently revealed that 63% of us would be willing to take the vaccine. That number gives me pause. Maybe we are concerned about how quickly the vaccine was made. Arguably, this vaccine came on the scene rather quickly. Usually, it does take some time for research and testing in order to come up with a vaccine. Researchers counter and say they have been working on this vaccine for years.

As we know from the beginning, African Americans have been hit the hardest with COVID-19. A study by the Pew Research Center said that of 12,648 adults surveyed, only 42% of African Americans would consider taking the vaccine. This compares to 63% of Hispanics.

Many of us remember the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. A partnership with the Public Health Service in 1931 was formed to examine the progression of syphilis in African American men. The men were misguided and treatment was not administered. As a result, Black men and their families eventually received a settlement of $10 million. This injustice in healthcare has not been forgotten.

African Americans have not had adequate healthcare, coupled with a reticence about going to the doctor. This is especially true for Black men. I go to the doctor; however, there are many who will just not go.

“The Black community’s distrust of the nation’s medical establishment is rooted in a long record of mistreatment. The late 1900s were defined by medical breakthroughs in the medical community, but many of these experiments and discoveries were made at the expense of Black people’s human dignity,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19. He added, “There is a history of insults that have occurred in healthcare for people of color.”

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “It would be doubly tragic that the lingering effects of that prevent you from doing something so important.”

Even while we have the vaccine now, there will be other hurdles to jump. First, the distribution to hospitals and healthcare facilities will be crucial. It will be also important to have both doses, four weeks apart, so that the medication will work. We know that COVID-19 does not play favorites. It strikes all of us, sometimes without much warning. This trail of destruction must stop. The science says this vaccine can stop it.

America will have to ask itself a moral question: Will family, race, political affiliation or socio-economic status be determining factors in whether we take the vaccine or not? Each family will have to decide. Attitudes and opinions will vary. 

What will yours be?

James B. Ewers Jr. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at

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