ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Black Caucus says it’s working with African American medical professionals to address skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines among communities of color.

Caucus President and CEO Celeste Hodge Growden says distrust toward the medical community is not new or without merit, Alaska’s News Source reported Tuesday.

“There’s a history of distrust when it comes to medical care for people of color,” said Hodge Growden, who oversees the nonpartisan organization advocating for the constitutional rights of Black Americans.

She cited examples of medical mistreatment of Black people as reasons for the suspicion, including an infamous study at the Tuskegee Institute beginning in 1932 in which hundreds of Black men were promised government health care for syphilis but were not properly treated.

Hodge Growden also noted a 2020 study from Northwestern University showing racial disparities in newborn survival rates.

The concerns rooted in the past extend to the new coronavirus vaccines, she said.


“I have to be honest,” Hodge Growden said. “I was reluctant, too.”

Black medical professionals spoke about the vaccine’s mechanics and distribution during a public video conference organized by the caucus Sunday.

“A lot of the situations that are happening that have been making people of color more susceptible to COVID, it’s more of the treatment that you have, and the care that you’re getting when you have COVID,” said Dr. Jocasta Olp, a pharmacist and panel member.

Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson discussed racial disparities in deaths and hospitalizations that have occurred during the pandemic.

“What’s hard for me is how reluctant so many people of color are to take this vaccination, and when you think about it, we’re the folks who were affected a lot by the situation, by the coronavirus,” Jackson said.

The caucus plans to continue collaborating with Black medical professionals to address concerns, Hodge Growden said.

“It wasn’t until I talked to doctors that looked like me and learned and became more educated on the vaccine did I make that turnaround,” she said.