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Seattle health experts say outreach is key to addressing vaccine skepticism among Black Americans

The medical profession's history of unethical experiments and practices towards Black Americans means public health must build trust.

SEATTLE — A recent Pew Research study suggests Black Americans are the least likely to get the vaccine, once it is available. Health experts say it does no good if people don't take the vaccine, especially those groups most at risk. 

DarNesha Weary says she'll wait and see before taking the vaccine. 

"I won't get that as soon as I can at all," Weary said. 

Jordan-Michael Whidbey of Seattle says he understands the anxiety surrounding taking the vaccine, but believes the benefits outweigh the risks. 

"Even though I'm worried, a bit, and I'm very like hesitant, to be hopeful I'm going to do it," Whidbey said.

Much of the hesitancy among the Black community is related to the history of unethical medical experiments done on Black people, including the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. 

While health experts say they understand the hesitance among communities of color, they believe it could be doubly tragic if Black communities don't begin to believe in the vaccine.

"For a population as a whole to have very little buy-in for the only real solution that we have to COVID-19 right now would actually compound, the injury that COVID-19 is having on African American populations," said Assistant Professor Dan Bustillo, faculty of the School of Nursing & Health Studies at the University of Washington Bothell. 

Dr. Michele Andrasik, director of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Community Engagement at Fred Hutch, says much of the effort in addressing racial disparities in health care involves transparency. 

"It's not just about what we know, it's about what we don't know, and what we hope to know and what we hope to find out," Andrasik said. 

Andrasik said it's important to highlight the ways science has moved forward, pointing out that there are rules in place that make it difficult for any one scientist to be unethical. 

"As these vaccines roll out, I think it'll be really important to make sure again that people have the information they need to make informed decisions," Andrasik said.

Andrasik says community outreach plays a huge role in communicating accurate information about vaccines and vaccine adoption.