The following is a statement issued Sunday night by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in response to a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial:
“Citizens have the right to be skeptical and cautious about vaccines and clinical trials due to unethical practices that have transpired around the world, in both developed and developing countries. Due to historic instances of scientific racism on African-Americans and people of color in this country (i.e. the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, conducted from 1932-1972, and the medical research of J. Marion Sims, whose advancement of a reproductive procedure was only made possible by numerous tests on enslaved women), it makes perfect sense for people to be afraid and quite frankly you have every right to be. What makes it more problematic is that African-Americans and people of color have been disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and dying more rapidly than anyone else from this disease.
“The current Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and University Hospital recruitment of healthy adults for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial is sponsored by Moderna, and more than 80 hospitals throughout the country are part of the research, many in suburban communities. Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President/CEO of University Hospital and a person of color, has courageously volunteered to be one of the first to get the vaccine, speaking volumes to his belief about it being safe for our community.
“However, the City of Newark cannot and did not authorize for any residents to partake in the research. If you do not want to be involved or have any uncertainty, please do not participate. If you are considering enrolling in the clinical trial, gather as much information as you can and inquire about how it can affect you. The trial is 100% voluntary and you have the right to say no.
“The reality is that COVID-19 is still hurting and killing people of color, which makes the entire scenario problematic. Please, if you are not one to volunteer for the sake of science, please do not volunteer in the clinical trial. Please know that we are at a desperate and dangerous time in this country. So I implore you to continue to wear your masks whenever you are around others, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, get tested, and take all precautions to protect you and your family. It’s going to take all of us collectively to figure out how we get through this.”