Vaccine Trials: “BIPOC do not Want to be Pawns for Medical Advancement”

Increased numbers in Covid-19 continue to paralyze the world. Peoples’ hope is that a vaccine will soon be the solution. However, before this happens, we need to be scrutinizing the methods of how we arrived at the vaccine. As more global conversation is taking place around the systemic global oppression of Black and brown people, the medical establishment has been called out. Colonialism did not part ways with medical research and there are hundreds of years of unethical research and trials that have harmed colonized subjects. Although the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies are well known known for their ruthless testing and withholding of information to Black male patients, the consequences of that has not been repaid.

How many studies are we not aware of that unethically and brutally experimented (and without the consent) on Black bodies? Is it happening now? In a rush to produce the vaccine against Covid-19, clinical trails are hitting different phases. From the different information you can find, the United States is in Phase 3 for clinical trials. You can read up on the company that is developing the vaccine, but you do not find information on who exactly is being tested. The reality is that white supremacy has severely invaded the medical field. Not only is healthcare access poor for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, but the treatment offered is subpar and groups of color have higher rates of mortality while in care. Additionally, medical education very much continues to sit on the model of the white male patient, making medical advances irrelevant, useless, and even dangerous.

It is then no surprise that white doctors can so naturally suggest places like Africa to do mass testing because of their little regard for Black lives. When it comes to vaccines, testing grounds have been places where testing companies can save costs, yield favorable results, and not be liable.

In her book Adverse Events, sociologist Jill A. Fisher gives detailed accounts into the way testing sites are run. Dr. Fisher discusses some of the conditions that includes subjects being very private, facilities varying in treatment, and overworked staff. She adds that subjects find shame volunteering for these clinical trials. It is imperative to note that those individuals that have consented to more than a handful of trials are all Black. This is no coincidence and shows how medical advancement prospers at the expense of Black people. We need to be wary of how these vaccines are being tested. What liability waivers did the subjects receive and what are the conditions for these facilities? These are legitimate questions and it should be important to look out after the most vulnerable communities. After a vaccine is released, will Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities be given access to these vaccines or where they just used “for the good of science”?