Esther Jones, dean of the faculty and associate provost at Clark, is a medical humanist and bioethicist who’s spent her career studying history, ethics, and literature to understand racial and gender health disparities. Jones recently drew upon her expertise on this topic to explain why many Black Americans are hesitant to get the COVID vaccines. Her article, “Many Black Americans aren’t rushing to get the COVID-19 vaccine — a long history of medical abuse suggests why,” which published on The Conversation, was distributed by the Associated Press and United Press International and has appeared in news outlets across the country.
Read articles published by Esther Jones and other Clark faculty authors on The Conversation
Jones, who also serves as the E. Franklin Frazier Chair of African American Literature, Theory, and Culture at Clark, writes, “Based on past experience, Black people have many legitimate reasons to be in no hurry to get the vaccination,” she notes, despite the fact that Black Americans have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic — they have been hospitalized at rates 2.9 times higher than white Americans and have died from COVID-19 at rates 1.9 times higher.
Black people are acutely aware of the history of racism in the medical establishment, and “the ways it persists today on both an individual and a collective level,” Jones writes. “Stereotypes about Black patients, whether the result of explicit or implicit bias, continue to affect the care they receive and their medical outcomes. Again and again, when surveyed, Black Americans report that medical providers don’t believe them, won’t prescribe necessary treatments, including pain medication, and blame them for their health problems.”
To close the COVID-19 racial health and mortality gap, Jones concludes, health care workers and policymakers must educate themselves about past medical mistreatment of Black Americans, and develop strategies informed by the systemic racism they still face.