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Many Californians, particularly Black residents, would skip taking COVID-19 vaccine today, survey finds

By Luke Money, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — As scientists race to develop COVID-19 vaccines, a new poll shows less than one-third of Black residents in California plan to get immunized.

Though eye-catching and troubling for health officials developing a plan for disseminating a vaccine throughout the state, the findings of the statewide survey didn't come out of the blue.

The reluctance of Black people to get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on minorities, is rooted in a broader suspicion toward vaccines in general, according to some experts.

"I have no surprise because this is not just relevant in terms of COVID-19," said Vickie Mays, a professor of health policy and management in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. "We've seen this even in terms of other types of immunizations."

The poll results released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California show that a majority of those surveyed, 57%, said they would either definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available today.

That opinion, however, was shared by only 29% of Black respondents — far below the 70% of Asian Americans, 62% of white people and 54% of Latinos who said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated.

 

Instead, 44% of Black residents said they would definitely not get the vaccine were it available today.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,701 California adults who were interviewed from Oct. 9 to 18. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The skepticism is likely driven in part by the repeated abuses and harmful practices Black Americans have been subjected to throughout history under the guise of medical research, researchers said.

Among the most odious examples was the notorious Tuskegee experiment — in which doctors used black men in Macon County, Alabama, as unwitting test subjects, withholding treatment for syphilis, even long after a cure had been found.

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