Anti-vaccination campaigners are targeting black Americans with false information about Covid-19 vaccines, one of Joe Biden’s top health advisers has warned.
Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith, head of the President’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, told the Financial Times that she was increasingly concerned about how misinformation about vaccines against coronavirus is adapted to attract black communities in particular.
Nunez-Smith told FT: “If you think about what it’s like to be 400 years old in this country [since slaves first arrived in the US] being marginalized and underprivileged, you can imagine the mistrust you would have in the system.
“There are actors who are trying to take advantage of this with misinformation about vaccines, especially among some of the communities that have been hit hardest. [by the pandemic]. “
She declined to say what measures were being considered to tackle disinformation online, but added: “All avenues are being explored.”
The United States currently vaccinates around 1.4 million people per day, but surveys show that a significant number of people are still reluctant to be vaccinated, especially in black communities. A study last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation think tank found that 43% of blacks said they wanted to “wait and see” before receiving a vaccine, compared to just 26% of whites.
Academics and health officials say they are increasingly alarmed at how well-organized anti-vaccination groups are tailoring their messaging to target black populations in particular, often using historic scandals.
The Tuskegee study, which began in 1932, allowed syphilis to develop without treatment in black men to see how the disease progressed.
In September, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, one of America’s foremost anti-vaccine campaigners, released a Facebook chat with Nation of Islam organizer Tony Muhammad, titled “Smallpox Infested Blankets, Tuskegee Experiment, Forced Vaccinations, Hidden Programs.” . . Never again!”
The White House is said to be in touch with Facebook, Twitter and Google about cracking down on Covid disinformation in an effort to prevent it from going viral.
Fears over the spread of vaccine misinformation come amid signs that people living in areas hardest hit by the pandemic – especially people of color – are being vaccinated at a slower rate than the rest of the country. American population.
This is especially true in some large urban areas, including Chicago. The zip code containing Streeterville, an area that is home to a Gucci boutique and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, has one of the highest vaccination rates in the city.
The region is over 70% white, with a median household income of nearly $ 107,000. Barely 40 per 100,000 residents died from Covid-19, while around 24% of them received a first dose of the vaccine.
Sixteen miles south, the postal code containing Roseland is over 90% black with a median household income of $ 41,000. Covid-19 has killed 279 out of 100,000 people; only 6% of residents received a first dose of the vaccine.