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Combating Vaccine Hesitancy Among Black Americans After Mistrust Caused by Unethical Study – NBC Los Angeles


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Medical mistrust is deeply rooted, particularly in the Black community. A big reason for that is the Tuskegee study, an experiment that lasted 40 years when the U.S. government recruited Black men, who were then denied treatment for syphilis.

Now the daughter of one of those victims is using her voice to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. 

If anyone had a reason for vaccine hesitancy, it would be Lillie Tyson Head. 

“No hesitancy whatsoever, I was looking forward to getting it!”

The 77-year-old is the daughter of Freddie Lee Tyson, one of hundreds of Black men unethically and immorally recruited by the U.S. government as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where the men were denied treatment.

“The men were not injected with syphilis, what happened to the men and what’s most relevant is the fact that the men were denied penicillin,” Tyson Head said. 

She says she understands the mistrust that has led many not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but she encourages them not to be misinformed. 

“I would beg everyone not to deny themselves the shot like the men were denied the antibody,” she added.

Tyson Head is sharing her message at the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators Conference this weekend in Long Beach.

She’s also educating through the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation.

“Our purpose is to transform the United States Public Service Syphilis Study from shame and trauma, to triumph and honor,” she said.

A recent survey by Black Women Rally for Action revealed some encouraging news that efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy are working. 

Nearly half of the Black community surveyed said they believed employers should require the COVID-19 vaccine.

Tyson Head vows to continue her efforts by honoring her father’s legacy. 

“I don’t think of it as my feeling of being proud, I look at it as my responsibility.”

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