Tuskegee relatives promote COVID-19 vaccines in ad campaign

Jun 29, 2021, 9:01 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2021, 1:38 am

Tuskegee is the one-word answer some people give as a reason they’re avoiding COVID-19 vaccines. A new ad campaign launched Wednesday with relatives of men who unwittingly became part of the infamous experiment wants to change minds.

Omar Neal, 63, a former mayor of the Alabama town, said he was hesitant at first about the shots. Neal is a nephew of Freddie Lee Tyson, a family man who was among several hundred Black men who decades ago became involved without their consent in the federally backed syphilis study.

Neal said he agreed to appear in the national campaign after doing research to gain confidence in the vaccines.

”I want to save lives,” Neal told The Associated Press. ”I didn’t want people to use Tuskegee and what transpired there as a reason for not taking the vaccine.”

In 1932 and over 40 years, Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, were subjected to experimentation without their knowledge. Most of the 600 men had syphilis — including Tyson, who got infected before birth — but they were left untreated so researchers could study the natural history of the disease.

Tyson died from unrelated causes in 1988, 16 years after the study ended. But many others died from a disease that can be cured with penicillin.

Neal and other Tyson relatives are among half a dozen Tuskegee descendants involved in the ads, which focus on vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans. They say vaccination is needed to help communities of color and curb a disease that has disproportionately affected Black Americans.

”Don’t deny ourselves the opportunity the men were denied,” Tyson’s 76-year-old daughter, Lillie Tyson Head, said in one of the ads.

”It’s really up to us to take ownership of our health and this story,” Carmen Head Thornton, the granddaughter Tyson called his ”Çarmen girl,” said in another ad.

Vaccines are highly effective against COVID-19. Yet U.S. vaccination rates are lower than government goals, with 46% fully vaccinated while 54%, have received one dose. People of color have lagged behind white Americans in getting the shots.

Authorities are concerned about the slowing pace of new vaccinations amid persistent pockets of resistance. Limited access is an issue for some Black people, but so is mistrust of the medical system.

Thornton, a director at the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, was a young girl when she learned what had happened to her grandfather. The two were extremely close; she recalls catching her first fish with him and watching mesmerized while he stitched quilts by hand.

She pledged to devote her life to fighting health inequities and injustice, and sees COVID-19 vaccines as a way to address disparities the pandemic laid bare.

The campaign includes a minidocumentary and shorter 60-second versions made for TV and online use. They are part of the Ad Council’s ongoing multimillion-dollar education campaign aiming to encourage confidence in the shots, paid for by donations from media corporations.

____

Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner on Twitter: @LindseyTanner

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The cargo ship Polarnet arrives to Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit, Turkey, Monday Aug. 8, 2022. ...
Associated Press

Ship carrying grain from Ukraine arrives in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (AP) — The first of the ships to leave Ukraine under a deal to unblock grain supplies amid the threat of a global food crisis arrived at its destination in Turkey on Monday. The Turkey-flagged Polarnet docked at Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit after setting off from Chornomorsk on Aug. 5 laden […]
3 hours ago
A person walks by a SoftBank shop on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Tokyo. Japanese technology company So...
Associated Press

Japan tech giant SoftBank posts $23 billion quarterly loss

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese technology company SoftBank Group posted a $23.4 billion loss in the April-June quarter as the value of its investments sank amid global worries about inflation and interest rates. SoftBank Group Corp.’s loss of 3.16 trillion yen was a reversal from its 762 billion yen profit in the same quarter a year […]
3 hours ago
Exterior damage from a fire is seen at the Mountain B pub in the Sattahip district of Chonburi prov...
Associated Press

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

BANGKOK (AP) — The owner of a music pub in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than three dozen others was released on bail when he was brought to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him. Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

Productivity, consumer prices, Cardinal Health earns

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: ECONOMIC BELLWETHER Economists project that U.S. worker productivity fell in the April-June period for the second consecutive quarter. The Labor Department is expected to report Tuesday that nonfarm labor productivity fell in the second quarter at an annual rate of […]
3 hours ago
Liudmila Samsonova, of Russia, poses with the trophy after she won the final at the Citi Open tenni...
Associated Press

Russian tennis players collect 3 titles at US Open tuneups

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was quite a week for Russia’s professional tennis players — four tournaments, three titles. One of them, Liudmila Samsonova, thinks it might not be merely a coincidence that this recent run of success for her, Daria Kasatkina and Daniil Medvedev comes shortly after they were banned from competing at Wimbledon because […]
1 day ago
Lyubov Mahlii, 76, pulls a crate of water bottles up the stairs to her fifth floor apartment after ...
Associated Press

As summer wanes, water crisis looms for east Ukrainian city

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine (AP) — The echo of artillery shells thundering in the distance mingles with the din of people gathered around Sloviansk’s public water pumps, piercing the uneasy quiet that smothers the nearly deserted streets of this eastern Ukrainian city. The members of Sloviansk’s dwindling population only emerge — a few minutes at a time […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Tuskegee relatives promote COVID-19 vaccines in ad campaign