As many people fear that the vaccines aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 will be harmful to African Americans, some doctors are making sure that the fear should remain in its place.

Remember "America's Frontline Doctors"? This infamous group, which is a collection of physicians, anti-vaxxers, and lawyers, gained popularity a few months ago when they held a press conference in front of the Supreme Court, denouncing mask mandates and called hydroxychloroquine a "cure" for COVID-19.

Even though many Americans criticized this group, especially the so-called medical expert Stella Immanuel and President Donald Trump shared the group's controversial video on Twitter before social media platforms removed it for "sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19." Now, this group has a new agenda--preventing black Americans from taking the vaccine.

Infection
Vaccination fear in black community Wikimedia Commons

Spreading Fear about Vaccines

There are some African Americans who are entirely unwilling to take a vaccine, while some have said that they want to wait and see how the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution is handled. According to a December report from the Pew Research Center, fewer than half of Black Americans said that they would get a Coronavirus vaccine, compared with 63 percent of Hispanic people and 61 percent of White people.

There are many black people in the US who said that they do not trust the medical establishment due to glaring inequities in modern-day care and historical examples of mistreatment. Even according to a recent report, a Houston hospital doctor said that half of his unit's staff don't want the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The spread of misinformation about the vaccine development and the Coronavirus pandemic has also made the situation worse. The infamous group, America's Frontline Doctors, has also contributed to spread fake news and increase the number of anti-vaxxers in the US. Some of the members of the group have been regular talking heads on Fox News. They are spreading misinformation about the threat from the COVID-19 vaccine. Even, some of the members of the group have repeatedly used so-called evidence to back up claims that the pandemic is a hoax.

According to a paper, "America's Frontline Doctors Position Paper on COVID-19 Experimental Vaccines", which was presented at the summit in Atlanta, the group claimed that the US government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is attempting to use the black people for the mass trial of what the group claims an "experimental" vaccine. According to a tweet by Simone Gold, one of the group's members, these so-called experts also took part in a protest outside the CDC headquarters.

In response to the tweet, one user wrote, "This is as good as evidence as you ever need that, as one wise senior nurse once told me as a student...'Remember above all else, there are lots of highly qualified idiots out there... and in here.' No real frontline doctors are against the vaccine and it is not compulsory. Sigh."

Another Twitter user wrote, "What's wrong with you people....?, and added that "The mortality rates are much higher than you claim. If you are a medical doctor you should not be providing false information. Vaccines have been vital in preventing millions of deaths over time."

#NotOnMyWatch

However, none of the media organizations were invited to the summit, but the attendees began sharing their views on social media, using the #NotOnMyWatch hashtag, urging the black communities to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

To spread their message the group is also looking to appoint influential black figures, Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, and Angela Stanton King, a major anti-abortion activist, as well as Trump supporters. Bevelyn Beatty, a Christian activist who attended the summit in Atlanta, shared a video on online platforms to spread the baseless claims about vaccines. The video was removed from the YouTube platform that had received 63,000 views.

The video included claims like the COVID-19 vaccine will make women infertile, it will allow Google to track individuals and the media is lying to people. "You're going to be chipped, and they're going to be tracking you," said Beatty, who claims to have been stabbed by a Black Lives Matter protester during Washington DC protest in November.

That's not it. A Republican candidate, Joe Collins, who ran for election to the US House and attended the summit, also shared baseless claims. He told Vice that he is a "proponent of the 'Front Line Doctors for America'" because the group "do not push propaganda, they want to educate".

"There has not been a vaccine created that I believe will work, especially in the black community. The last thing we need is to continue to use the black community as experimental test subjects," he added.

Joe Collins
Joe Collins at Atlanta summit Facebook screen grab

It is a fact that compared to the rate of white Americans, more African Americans are being hospitalized for the Coronavirus caused disease. In the past few months, researchers have shared evidence that the black communities are at greater risk, but America's Frontline Doctors dismissed the evidence. The group said that there is very less evidence that "race is an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease and there is substantial evidence to suggest it is irrelevant".