Burning Spear News
Should black people take the COVID-19 vaccine?
"Vaccination drive in Africa" by Sanofi Pasteur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
So, should black people take the COVID-19 vaccine? It doesn’t boil down to a simple “yes” or “no.”
We must first go into the science behind vaccines and then further explore the colonial relationship between Africans and the western medical establishment.
Before the three phases of clinical trials begin on a potential vaccine, there are pre-clinical trials that occur in the lab with test tubes or animals to ensure the vaccine is effective in that setting.
The first phase of clinical trials looks at side effects of the vaccine in a small group of people. It measures safety, tolerability and the immune reaction.
Phase two also looks at side effects and safety, but in a slightly larger group of people, and tries to figure out what the right dosage and timing are for the vaccine. It also measures whether there is a strong immune response or not.
The final phase then sees whether the vaccine is going to be effective at preventing infection on a big population level.
Are there rare side effects or complications present that are, for example, only seen in one of 10,000 people? What about the efficacy of the vaccine for various subgroups such as the very young or old, racial/ethnic groups and gender (as it is colonially defined in a binary way)? This phase answers those questions.
Overall, this process usually takes six to ten years.
In the face of a global pandemic, however, there has been tremendous cooperation in the scientific community of which the world has never seen, creating a sense of urgency that has significantly increased the pace of this process.
We need to consider the lucrative monetary implications of this sense of urgency, especially when it comes to who is making the vaccine. This includes capitalist entities such as a big pharmaceutical company like Pfizer, which is the richest transnational for-profit pharma company with over $50 billion in revenue.
And what about the FDA?
After the three phases have been completed, the trial data goes to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).
The contradiction with the FDA, though, is that it is a “porous institution” with a revolving door. Opportunists from big pharma and agro-business can become FDA commissioners and then go back to their respective businesses after they leave their post.
This creates a clear conflict of interest.
In the case of vaccine development, however, the FDA appoints an external advisory board to assess the efficacy of the vaccine.
Scientists and medical professionals also look at peer-reviewed evaluations and other countries such as Canada to see what they approve because they are not as subject to the political sway that is present in the U.S.
Now, how do vaccines work?
Our immune system recognizes things that do and don’t belong in the body with a “lock and key” mechanism. It makes antibodies against threats and the response is either the body becoming ill or fighting off the infection.
In the case of DNA/RNA vaccines, a genetic code of the virus’s protein is provided to stimulate an immune response.
Then long-term effects must be considered. It’s a general rule of thumb in the medical establishment to not give a vaccine unless there are at least two months of data for it, with adverse effects showing after the first dose.
The external advisory board then sends recommendations that inform the roll out plan for the vaccine, which is done in tiers:
Tier 1: Essential workers
Tier 2: Vulnerable populations
Tier 3: The general public
As recent as December 21, we have seen contradictions arise in this process.
For example, 100 Stanford doctors protested on Friday, December 18 after “a botched algorithm, crashing scheduling platforms and other logistical mishaps thwarted their efforts to be among the first in the U.S. to receive a long-awaited coronavirus vaccine,” according to The Guardian, while their colleagues who are doing telehealth from home got vaccinated.
How do we gain immunity?
In order to gain immunity, you either get the disease and become immune or you get vaccinated and become immune.
The term “herd immunity” also comes to mind. We must understand that this is not a strategy for achieving immunity; it is an outcome.
Herd immunity is essentially the threshold that measures how many people need to be immune in order for people who haven’t become infected to be protected.
In this way, getting vaccinated is for the benefit of the community as a whole.
The FDA has stated that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective and the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective. In the case of both vaccines, two doses are required.
This efficacy speaks to the vaccine’s ability to prevent symptomatic illness, severe disease and potential hospitalization.
According to an ABC news article, neither vaccine, however, can claim whether they prevent someone from carrying COVID-19 and spreading it to others. So, it’s possible that someone could get vaccinated but still be an asymptomatic carrier.
Which begs the question: what’s the point of getting vaccinated then?
Science is in the hands of the colonizers
The root of African people’s distrust in the medical establishment is that it is in the hands of the colonizers.
In pre-colonial times, Africans mastered our environment on the continent, keeping known diseases under control.
Then colonialism created the conditions for the spread of malaria, cholera, tuberculosis (TB) and a plethora of other infectious diseases.
In 2016, 54 percent of cholera cases globally occurred in Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in Occupied Azania (South Africa), tuberculosis (TB) infects 450,000 people every year. In 2014, there were 96,000 TB-related deaths, making it the leading cause of death there.
This is genocide! This is biological warfare against our people!
We need a vaccine called “Black Power!”
The primary problem facing African people is colonialism, not COVID-19. The impact that COVID has had on our communities has been exacerbated by the colonial conditions with which we are faced.
If we want to be taken seriously as a people, we must struggle for power in our own hands.
We must build organization! And not just any old organization, but one with a revolutionary character.
During this crisis, the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP) created its own COVID-19 commission and an international COVID-19 telehealth program, through which anyone can schedule free appointments with medical providers. This meets a big need in our community for accessible health care advice.
AAPDEP is also currently working on providing appointments in French.
You can learn more about this program at developmentforafrica.org/telehealth
Build the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project!
Fight for Black Power!
No compromise, no surrender!