Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, that the distribution of vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, must consider how disproportionately the virus impacts people of color.
COVID-19 death rates among people of color are higher than white people, according to CDC data.
In 16 states that have published COVID-19 vaccination data by race, white residents have been vaccinated at rates that are often two or three times higher than black residents, according to Axios.
“I think that’s the one thing we really got to be careful of,” Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said. “We don’t want in the beginning … most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people.”
He noted however that he understands why some may be hesitant to receive the vaccination because of American medical history like the Tuskegee study, which saw medical workers study 600 black men for 40 years without their consent and without properly treating them for syphilis.
“They keep coming back and saying the history of Tuskegee,” Fauci said, referring to minority groups. “They don’t, can’t, and should not forget about it, because it happened and it was shameful.”
A survey (pdf) of black and Latino respondents published by the COVID Collaborative, the NAACP, and UnidosUS in September last year found that only 14 percent of black respondents said that they believed a future vaccine would be safe, while only 18 percent believed that the vaccine would be effective.
A Pew Research Center poll from last month meanwhile found that fewer than half of black Americans polled would get the vaccine.
Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, an associate professor at the Brown University School of Public Health’s epidemiology department, pointed to the Tuskegee study as a reason why black Americans might be apprehensive about new vaccines.
“If you think historically for African Americans in the U.S. in terms of what the history has been with respect to their interaction with the healthcare system, of course we know the Tuskegee study. Tuskegee was not that long ago. The last surviving member died in 2004. It’s not something that is far removed. It’s still in people’s memory,” she told Healthline.
Fauci said more must be done to convince people of color “that the safeguards that have been put in place since then … would make it essentially impossible for a Tuskegee situation to arise again.”
“You really want to get it to the people who are really the most vulnerable … you don’t want to have a situation where people who really are in need of it, because of where they are, where they live, what their economic status is, that they don’t have access to the vaccine,” Fauci added.
Biden has vowed to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office against COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47.2 million doses have been distributed as of Jan. 27 but just 24.6 million have been administered.
He announced on Tuesday evening that the federal government will purchase 200 million more vaccine doses.
Under former President Donald Trump, the federal government had already agreed to buy 200 million doses from Pfizer and 200 million from Moderna, both delivered by July.
Because each vaccine requires two shots, those 400 million doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna would be enough to vaccinate about 200 million U.S. adults.
Pfizer is authorized in people as young as 16, whereas Moderna is for people over 18 years old.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.