UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the federal government has agreed not to collect any data that could identify the immigration status of any individual, but many in immigrant and underserved communities continue to be hesitant about getting the vaccine.
“A lot of refugee and immigrant populations can be a little untrusting of the government because of their experiences historically,” Shelly Callahan, Executive at the Center explained.
Historically speaking many immigrants and people of color have been used for decades as public health experiments, most notably the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In the 1970s, it was revealed that for four decades, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been experimenting on Black men to study how syphilis affected African American populations.
The 600 sharecroppers in the study were deceived and told they were receiving free health care from the federal government. Instead, they received placebos and ineffective methods, even when penicillin was discovered as a safe and reliable cure.
The Tuskegee Study was just one of many experiments the government conducted on immigrants and people of color. These studies contributed to a great deal of mistrust in the medical field and the government generally, even when listening to expert advice is in the population’s best interest.
Callahan and others at the Center understand that past experiences have caused many to be hesitant for understandable reasons, but she believes that the vaccine is the best option for everyone.
“We’re going to work really hard to share the message that this vaccine is safe, is effective and we need to take 3 it for all of us,” Callahan said. “These communities, many of them have been hit disproportionately hard by this virus. We’re seeing larger numbers of cases there’s been complications, and deaths so it’s really important to me that we help these communities understand that this is the best course for them to be safe, as well as the rest of us.”
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