Black doctors’ group forms task force to review virus vaccine

The Black community may be more receptive 'if members of our task force give it the green light,' says Dr. Leon McDougle.

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The National Medical Association, a group of Black physicians, has created a task force to independently vet COVID-19 drugs, vaccines and government regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s necessary to provide a trusted messenger of vetted information to the African American community,” Leon McDougle, a family physician and president of the NMA, told StatNews. “There is a concern that some of the recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration have been unduly influenced by politicians.”

Doctors and other healthcare workers rally at Seattle City Hall after marching from Harborview Medical Center during a June Doctors For Justice event. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

McDougle explained that the group’s goal is to help address the suspicion in the Black community about a vaccine, given the community’s dark history of dangerous medical testing, like the infamous Tuskegee experiment. 

“I think this will help to increase uptake in the African American community, if members of our task force give it the green light,” McDougle said. But he emphasized that their stamp of approval would come only if data shows that the vaccine is, in fact, effective and safe.

Read More: Black newborns 3 times more likely to die when cared for by White doctors

The NMA will also be evaluating participation in clinical trials by Black and Latino participants, who have been disproportionately affected by death due to the virus. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that Blacks have died 2.1 times higher than whites from COVID-19, while Latinos have died at a rate of 1.1 times higher. 

According to the report, the idea of the task force came from Rodney Hood, an internal medicine doctor in San Diego. Hood posited that while he has been an advocate for Black volunteers for medical trials, he also understands the distrust his patients have in the federal government. But, he explained, they trusted him as their doctor. 

Read More: 2 HBCU presidents join COVID-19 vaccine trial, want students to follow

Francine Maxwell of the San Diego NAACP agreed. She noted that most African Americans are interested in taking a wait-and-see approach because “they don’t trust the science behind it because they feel everyone is doing it to make 45 happy,” she said, referring to President Donald Trump

Khadijah Lang, a family physician in Los Angeles, vowed honesty with her patients.

“We will tell our patients what our scientific findings are with full disclosure and full transparency,” she said, “explaining how we came to our conclusions.” 

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