Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

Vaccine hesitancy often rooted in medical mistrust


Many patients do not understand that the science behind the development of COVID-19 vaccines is not new technology. It took years to develop and has been successfully utilized worldwide when needed.

I recently had the privilege of participating on a panel with a fellow physician to discuss the topic of medical mistrust. This pertinent topic required that we discern the reasons why people are unwilling to consider standard medical care such as getting their COVID-19 vaccination.

It could be said that there will always be those who will buck a prevailing trend, even if it’s scientifically sound.  For these people it does not matter what is said or what medical research discovers. They belong to a group of people, who will turn left when the rest of the world turns right. That is just their nature.

Some people simply do not trust information researched and critiqued by medical science.

True, there have been instances when medical professionals and scientists have failed to provide sound advice to African Americans such as in the Tuskegee Experiment. I cannot tell you the countless times I have been reminded by patients of that study which involved the blatant withholding of syphilis treatment from Black men in order for scientists to observe the course of the disease in the untreated. This harmful act committed by the medical establishment and scientific researchers was wrong on so many levels.

Today, many patients fear that today’s medical community is somehow out to mistreat and/or experiment on them and therefore they fear getting the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. I strongly encourage my patients to be vaccinated because we are in the midst of a pandemic and therefore it is important that that they receive the appropriate inoculation(s) to prevent the development of COVID-19.

Some of my patients have even voiced concern about how fast the vaccines were developed. They misunderstand the science and the fact that vaccine development this is not new technology. It has taken years to develop and has been successfully utilized worldwide when needed.

Experts have said that often the ethnicity of the medical provider is important to eliminating medical mistrust. Some people tend to identify and trust the information more when it comes from someone who “looks and speaks like them.”  These are important statements and have proven to be true when trusted health professionals provide information there is more confidence in the message.  When the message comes from trusted members in the community or trusted institutions from the community such as churches and organizations, there is more trust.

There is the medical arm of messaging and there is a political arm of messaging.  When messaging comes from the medical arm, especially now with so many diverse people providing the message, maintaining the health of the community is the primary objective. When the messaging comes solely from a political arm with a disdain for scientific expertise, unfortunately the aim is often the health of the political apparatus and not the health of the people.  It is the continuance of the power that is irrespective of the scientific facts. The maintenance of power and not in the health of one’s constituents is the aim there.

We have seen more than 600,000 people die in the U.S. due to this pandemic.  Many died due to fear and mistrust of the message coming from the medical community; even when the message came from people who look like and speak like them with the appropriate knowledge and skillset to rectify the situation.

We must not allow fear to outweigh the facts and one’s ability to reason. Some people may be feeling information overload. Instead of activity there is inactivity due to an over stimulation from so much data.

The bottom line is that medical mistrust results in the death of many people who from COVID-19 who did not have to die.  Send me your thoughts on this subject.  How can we better alleviate medical mistrust and get the message that vaccines work out to all?  Leave your thoughts at on my blog page or send them to this newspaper.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at