You are here:

Tuskegee Experiment Haunts COVID-19 By Cassiette West-Williams

One person will not be participating in the clinical trials vaccine – ever.

Walter Jones* at 79 years-old takes pride in staying alive during this COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been blessed to stay out of the hospital. My wife, daughter, and a couple of family members have nursed me back to health,” said Jones, who experienced a bout with the ailment in March.

He says that he will NOT be signing up for the proposed vaccine this winter. “I don’t know what lie they are telling about that vaccine. I am not going to sacrifice the rest of my life for the government’s testing,” he said. “The truth is that we don’t know what is being put into these vaccines.”

The Center for Disease Control said that there is a possibility that the America vaccine will be ready by November. Various hospitals have advertised for volunteers of color (Black and Latinos), but only a few have come through for these studies. Some places are even paying for volunteers of color for vaccine research studies, up to $700 per study,  but Jones said that Black folks need to know their history before being a party of “Tomfoolery.”

“I don’t trust the government or the so-called leaders. First, he (President Donald Trump) told us to drink bleach and take some drug that has nothing to do COVID. I trust God. I’m not gonna be foolin’ around with some man-made poison,” Jones said.

Mr. Jones’ distrust also comes from an uncle, who, as a Tuskegee mechanic, was injected with syphilis experiment in the 1940s. The Black participants were never told that they had been injected with the “poison” and were never given the cure for syphilis, which is penicillin. 

The uneducated men were promised burial insurance, free dinners, and medical care. From 1932 to 1972, the US Public Health institute confirmed the study existed. 

“That’s why my friends and I do not believe in going to the doctor now. My wife made me go because I had a fever, but if I had been on my own, I don’t know if I would have gone there,” Elder Jones said.

This experiment was given by the government. In the 1940s, more than 600 Black men were injected with syphilis, and 128 men died from the federal experiment. A newspaper article (The Washington Star) in the early 1970s exposed the truth about the syphilis study, which forced the government to stop infecting Black men with this disease.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) advocated for the men and their families, and the families were paid $10 million for their loss and sufferings.  The federal government also paid for the medical treatment of other infected family members. Movies and documentaries have been made to document this experiment.

Elder Jones said that he will build up his immune system with vitamins, fruit, water, and food.

The University of Illinois is still accepting volunteers for the vaccine study, as the numbers for Illinois residents with COVID-19 keep rising. The number is 312-355-0656 for more information about the vaccine studies. Half of the volunteers will receive the actual vaccine, and the other half will not. They are looking to test more than 30,000 people, including elders like Jones, who are in a high-risk group.

(*name changed)