As more than 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are reportedly en route to selective populations in December, a group of eight Black doctors and nurses, who call themselves the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, recently penned “A Love Letter to Black America” that speaks to how best to protect the community disproportionately impacted by this crisis.

One of the first steps is being open to getting the vaccine: 

As Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity… Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones. Our colleagues across healthcare know that we are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available. However, for this to be successful, they must do more to earn your trust—now and in the future. 

We are on the front lines in care delivery, and in key decision-making roles— from the lab to the clinic to the virtual boardroom. We urge you to hold us accountable. We also ask for your help in continuing to protect the health of our community, especially now that the pandemic is escalating at crisis levels across the country.

With the holidays around the corner, we want nothing more than to break bread with our loved ones. But
tradition cannot stand in the way of our health. We plead with you to wear your masks, continue social
distancing, hand washing, and avoiding indoor events until vaccines are widely available.

We also ask you to join us in participating in clinical trials and taking a vaccine once it’s proven safe and
effective. 

According to an October study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), confidence in the first waves of vaccines is the lowest among Black people with only 17 percent saying they definitely would get vaccinated—20 percentage points lower than Latinx and white adults. While safety and scientific distrust rank as top concerns for KFF’s 800 Black respondents, so does doubt “that the vaccine development process is taking the needs of Black people into account, and that when a vaccine becomes available it will have been properly tested and will be distributed fairly,” KFF reported

The hesitation against science and medicine that many within the Black community feel is not unfounded. Many are familiar with historical medical misconduct against Black people, from 1932’s Tuskegee Study, in which the U.S. government willingly withheld treatment from Black men who had syphilis, to Henrietta Lacks, a Black mother whose cervical cells were unknowingly shared with Johns Hopkins Medicine for research in 1951, following her death from cancer. Fast forward to 2020, an Undefeated/KFF survey of 777 Black adults found that 20 percent of those people reported experienced unfair or biased treatment while trying to get healthcare for themselves or a family member because of their race. 

To that end, the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 is encouraging people to participate in clinical trials and to take the vaccine once it is deemed safe. “We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people—and that we trust—has an impact on our very survival,” the coalition wrote.

In addition to the love letter, the website also includes a short video of the letter (watch it below, via Twitter), as well as health resources, information on vaccines and masks and a COVID-19 remembrance page. The public can also sign up for updates from the group here

To read the complete love letter—written by Black medical professionals from Howard University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Charles Drew University, National Medical Association, National Black Nurses Association and the National Urban League—click here.