As pharmaceutical companies race to get a COVID-19 vaccine on the market, citizens are getting more and more wary about the conflicting information they’re getting from health officials. Does it even matter if a vaccine comes to us at warp speed if people —especially ones who have been disproportionately hurt by coronavirus — don’t want to take it? Thankfully, a group of Black physicians has formed a task force that will vet any potential COVID-19 vaccines and offer the public their unvarnished — and depoliticized — medical appraisals.
The National Medical Association (NMA) is a group of Black doctors that was formed in 1895; they were founded as an alternative to racist medical organizations that excluded Black doctors. It was as necessary then as it is now, since BIPOC in the U.S. have always had good reason to be suspicious of the medical industrial complex. From the horrifying gynecological experiments performed on slaves to the Tuskegee syphilis trials to the unrelenting racial medical bias in the present day, the racist policies of our government and health agencies have consistently dehumanized Black and brown bodies.
Now, the NMA is working to restore the public’s confidence in medicine by offering evidence-based medical appraisals of treatments for COVID-19. “This is about ensuring safety for ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ Leon McDougle, a Columbus-based physician and president of the NMA, told CBS. In case you don’t know, “Operation Warp Speed,” is what the Trump Administration is calling its effort to speed up vaccination testing and production. “We're really doing this to be a source of trusted information for our physicians and our community,” McDougle said.
The NMA — and many others, myself included — fear that the politicization of the pandemic has damaged the ability of researchers to work within the bounds of scientific reason and therefore the public’s ability to trust the data they receive. “There's concern about some of these decisions being politicized,” McDougle told CBS. "It impairs the ability to complete the [vaccine] clinical trials appropriately."
The COVID-19 task force is still forming, but McDougle told CBS that they will be “reviewing the available data to help ensure appropriate evidence exists, and that in clinical trials diversity is represented, in order for us to speak to the safety and allocation within the African American community.”