The Black community is often hesitant to trust healthcare systems and officials, for reasons that date back decades. From the Tuskegee experiment to increased the mortality rates among Black mothers, medical disparities have historically lead the Black community to have trepidations about treatment or even visiting doctors. To combat this mistrust amid the pandemic, the president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) took a significant step to build trust in her community. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice used herself as an example to show the coronavirus vaccine is safe by recently taking it herself on live television.

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

The first doses of the highly-anticipated Pfizer vaccine were administered December 13, 2020. To discuss the vaccine as a part of prevention for COVID-19, Rice came together with world-renowned Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a segment on CNN. She shared that she made her big move because she wouldn’t recommend a vaccine to her community that she didn’t trust herself. It was very important to her to highlight that not only had she done her personal research on the vaccine, but healthcare professionals of color were involved in the creation of the vaccine itself. There are Black scientists and doctors that have sat on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisory boards in addition to developing the vaccine.

“We are in the rooms where it’s happening,” said Rice. “So we clearly are not going to go against ourselves. Because we understand how critical this is for Black America and Latinx America who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.”

Among the first to take the vaccine have been thousands of frontline healthcare workers, and other hospitals and clinics professionals.

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Morehouse School of Medicine lauds itself as an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) that is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians and was recently recognized as the top institution among U.S. medical schools. 

As someone who has been the lead investigator of COVID-19 vaccines at MSM, Lilly Immergluck shared that she believes Morehouse should be one of the leaders of the vaccine research and promotions because of the trusted role that the school has in the Black community. Currently, the college is actively recruiting people of color to participate in clinical trials for another coronavirus vaccine, called Novavax vaccine.

“We want to be that source of information that people can rely on and know that we are going to do our very best by them in order for us to all get out of this pandemic,” Immergluck said.

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice