Notorious Tuskegee Study Has Lessons for COVID Era, New Movies Release

As the United States continues its efforts to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, there is a new effort to address vaccine reluctance, especially among African Americans.

A new short takes a fresh look at an ugly time in American history and shows why the current vaccination campaign is so different.

Tuskegee’s study of untreated syphilis in black men: It was the official title of what is now considered one of the most shameful episodes in American medical history.

It was a 40-year experiment that prevented 600 black men from receiving treatment in Alabama.
One hundred of these men died.

One of the study participants was Freddie lee Tyson, father of Lillie Tyson Head.

“We have to bring something good from something that happened that was so bad,” she said.

And that’s why she’s now sharing her family story in a new short, along with six other descendants of the Tuskegee study participants.

They hope to dispel some myths and counter the widespread distrust of the health care system shared by many black Americans.

“There have been a lot of references to the study, as to why some people may or may not want to take the vaccine… There is a lot of misinformation out there,” she said.
The nonprofit Ad Council is spearheading the project as part of its COVID-19 vaccination education initiative.

The goal is to reach the communities most affected by the coronavirus – and those most reluctant to get vaccinated.

“I think for the black community, where we know this study has undermined trust, these stories, I have to believe, will grab people’s attention,” said Lisa Sherman of the Advertising Council.

And, says the director of the film, underlines the big difference between yesterday and today.

“These men didn’t have the privilege or the ability to access what they really needed to get better,” said Deborah Riley Draper. “They didn’t even have the privilege or the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to say yes or no.”

“The men wanted the best health care they could get, but they were turned away,” said Lillie Tyson. “We are in a position today where we can get this health care.”

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