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Family’s history lingers around debate to get COVID vaccine

Descendants of the Tuskegee experiment can’t embrace COVID-19 vaccines
Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 5:50 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Blacks’ long history of not trusting medical research and studies has once again created a magnitude of questions regarding taking the COVID 19 vaccine.

“My grandmother’s grandfather was from Tuskegee and he was part of the Tuskegee Experiment. He was actually blinded from those experiments”, said Collyn Mauldin.

The Cleveland school teacher is a direct descendant of one of the most horrifying examples of mistrust within the medical profession that many African-American communities have to this day.

Mauldin’s great-grandfather Minor Iszell in 1932, was a part of the Tuskegee syphilis study.

Iszell was one of 600 Black men who volunteered to treat what was known as “bad blood.”

Instead of treatment, the men received free meals and a 50 dollar insurance policy.

When penicillin became available in 1947, the United States government withheld it from them.

Stories such as that still haunt Collyn Mauldin. She recalls how even her grandmother realized that the Tuskegee experiment of untreated syphilis caused the great-great-grandfather’s blindness.

“She thought he was born that way. It’s a stigma in the Black community to speak about those things because its reality is.. it’s trauma. And you just don’t go around talking about your trauma”, said Mauldin.

Various theories and philosophies are somewhat taboo; however, not everyone in the Black community follows the leader.

Phyliss Wiggins wants no parts of the COVID 19 vaccine, at least for now.

“I’m not trusting it. I haven’t heard too many positive things about it. I’ve heard people dying from it ..people getting Bell’s Palsy…and my grandmother had Bell’s Palsy and I am just very wary of it,” said Wiggins.

The FDA disputes that claim saying that Bell’s Palsy cases in clinical trials are no greater than the number of people who experience the nerve condition in the general population.

“African Americans have been taken advantage of; in terms of not being told the truth. So when we talk about this vaccine, we have to ask what do we know about it”, said Dessie Sanders, a native of Alabama.

Dessie and her husband Christopher grew up hearing first hand about the Tuskegee experiment; that why the dialogue passed down to them through the generations is so valuable to them.

Christopher Sanders recalls all the stories passed down by his uncle.

“He shared articles from newspaper articles with us about with different discrepancies to the way African-Americans were being treated by the medical field. Opposed to how southern whites were being treated”, said Sanders.

The wounds and scars have never healed for many in the Black community because of the studies like Tuskegee.

Fast forward to 2021, and questions remain.

Cleveland actor and independent filmmaker, Cameron Woods, did an, all be it, unscientific poll while travelling throughout parts of Northeast Ohio getting a younger demographic’s view on the vaccine.

Who do we trust, and whether the vaccine is safe or not is still up for debate? For Dessie Sanders the narrative changes whenever you bring her children into the storyline.

“Well you want to be here for your kids. So at the end of the day this vaccine. If this vaccine is proven that you live a little longer, I think it’s worth it”, said Dessie Sanders.

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