At least 70% of the United States population needs to be vaccinated in order to attain herd immunity. The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be deemed safe for young people ages 12-15, but many parents are skeptical about allowing their young people to take the shot. (Photo courtesy of unsplash)

By Marnita Coleman
Special to the AFRO

Wishing the coronavirus would go away doesn’t make it happen. Experts say that to stop transmission of the disease, at least 70% of the population needs antibodies to COVID to attain herd immunity. Experts also say that children must get the vaccination in order to help the population reach that percentage. It seems like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wasted no time greenlighting the Pfizer vaccine, and Moderna shortly thereafter, to be given to youth ages 12 to 15. Since Gov. Larry Hogan boasts of the state’s front-line handling of COVID-19, vaccinations are well underway at mass sites for this young population.

Now that children are being integrated into the fight against coronavirus, vaccine hesitancy has gone to another level in the Black community. Dean Brown, an internet radio station owner, told the AFRO, “The vaccine is not approved, tested or tried. I will not allow my children to be test objects. This vaccine has been responsible for more deaths than any other vaccines in previous years.”

Vaccine hesitancy among many adults is a concern throughout the U.S. More than 40% of parents of adolescents said they would not get their children vaccinated or would do so only if required by a school, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

In an article about Black vaccine hesitancy, Meharry Medical College President Dr. James Hildreth, a member of the FDA committee that authorized the first two COVID vaccines says the vaccines are safe. Hildreth asserts that, “None of the steps typically involved in evaluating the safety of a vaccine were omitted,” he says. “They’re all there, they’re all done to completion, and they all demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Despite child vaxx support from reputable Black doctors, Baltimoreans like Taja Cooper are not convinced. When asked whether her children would be vaccinated, the oldest being 15, Cooper emphatically stated, “ can keep it. It gives me Tuskegee vibes.” While the vaccine is designed to protect against the deadly sting of the coronavirus, Blacks are opting out, mostly because of distrust from the government. 

Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S., vice president and chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in a statement, “People of color, along with immigrants and differently-abled men and women have endured centuries of having their trust violated. We need to give people the facts about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and renew their trust toward health care in general,” states Golden. “It’s incumbent on health care organizations and leaders to help repair and restore that relationship.”

At present, Baltimore ranks almost last among the state’s 24 jurisdictions for the percentage of its population inoculated. As mass vaccination of adults slows down, parents are dealing with the decision of whether or not to have their children get the shot. Karen Wilson, member of Spirit of Faith Christian Center, makes an assessment based on her faith. “I would not let my 12 to 15- year-olds get the Pfizer vaccination. I believe that we should be boosting our own immune systems. I have sought the Lord for guidance as to whether or not to get the vaccine myself. The vaccine won’t keep a person from getting the COVID-19 virus. It just keeps the symptoms from being so bad if one gets it. That being said, my own God given immune system will do the same thing and it doesn’t introduce a foreign chemical into my system. For my young adult children living with me, I have encouraged them to seek the Lord as well for themselves. They are clear where I stand and my reasons.”

Like Wilson, a Glen Burnie man, took a stand against the vaccination. He gives a football analogy to explain his point of view: “It’s not a fourth and inches. I don’t have to go for it right now, it’s not the end of the game. It’s the first quarter, second quarter. I don’t have to really go for it. I know I’m going to get the ball back. That’s the way I’m seeing it.”

Whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter, parents will make the challenging final call on behalf of their underage children, to inoculate or not.

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