Many in the Black community who are reluctant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, often reference the controversial Tuskegee experiment.
The ad was released on Wednesday and aims to change the minds of Black people who might think the vaccine is being forced upon them for some underlying conspiracy theory.
’I want to save lives,” Omar Neal told The Associated Press. ‘’I didn’t want people to use Tuskegee and what transpired there as a reason for not taking the vaccine.’’
He’s a 63-year-old nephew of Freddie Lee Tyson, one of the Black men who were tested on unknowingly for a federally backed syphilis study. The 1932 study was initially dubbed the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”, as noted by the CDC.
It involved 600 Black men, some with syphilis and some without, who were lied to and led to believe that they were being treated for “bad blood.” They were tested and studied without their consent. By 1943, penicillin was widely available for syphilis treatment. However, the study participants were not offered the drug.
Though the study was deemed “ethically unjustified” in 1973 and the men who participated received $10 million from a class-action lawsuit and lifetime health benefits, the incident only added to the lack of trust between the Black community and the medical industry.
Now Neal and other Tyson relatives are among a group of Tuskegee descendants participating in the vaccine ads in hopes of easing hesitancy among Black Americans. The descendants are urging Black people to educate themselves on the vaccine and help to curb the spread of a disease that has disproportionately affected Black Americans.
’’Don’t deny ourselves the opportunity the men were denied,” Tyson’s 76-year-old daughter, Lillie Tyson Head, said in one ad.
‘’It’s really up to us to take ownership of our health and this story,” Carmen Head Thornton, Tyson’s granddaughter said.