Vaccine Hesitancy Is a Scapegoat for Structural Racism | Vaccination | JAMA Health Forum | JAMA Network
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Vaccine Hesitancy Is a Scapegoat for Structural Racism

  • 1University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of medicine and science dominate current discourse around disparities in who is currently receiving COVID-19 vaccines, a potentially lifesaving prevention strategy. Mistrust of medicine and science is based in a long and sordid history of unethical practice and research on African American, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American populations in this country.1-4 However, current concerns about vaccine uptake are a glaring symptom of a much deeper problem—structural racism. The underlying condition of structural racism is a significant contributor to disparities in risk, morbidity, and mortality from not only COVID-19 but also many other conditions. The structures, policies, and practices that advantage some and disadvantage others so that race and ethnicity are consistent predictors of a cycle of unequal access to care, unequal access to educational and employment opportunities, and disproportionate exposure to health risks, as evident in the COVID-19 pandemic. Generations of Black individuals, Indigenous individuals, and those from other racial and ethnic minority groups have lived this cycle for decades with little to no hope for change. Their resulting lack of faith in a system that has so consistently demonstrated little or no regard for their well-being should come as no surprise.

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