During a recent event held at Howard University, descendants of the men involved in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study shared stories and included messages that encourage people to get the Covid vaccine.
According to Howard, the event was organized as part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative and the “It’s Up to You” campaign from the Ad Council COVID Collaborative and the Joy Collective.
The event showcased a new documentary that tells the story of the study. The short film was created by director Deborah Riley Draper, who also led a panel at the event. Two Howard University College of Medicine students, Jasmine Thompson and Micah Brown, also participated in a panel and reflected on their experience.
The panel discussions included Omar Neal, a former mayor of Tuskegee, and Leo Ware, whose grandfathers were in the study.
“Unfortunately, references to their humanity were not detailed in medical research or academic writings, and some information and beliefs about the study continue to be unknown, ill-perceived, and misleading,” Lillie Tyson Head said in a statement. “We should not allow anyone who needs and wants a COVID-19 vaccine to not have their questions answered – or be denied the opportunity to get it, like the men in the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. We must protect ourselves and each other.”
Dr. Reed Tuckson, a member of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 and a trustee at Howard University, appeared in the documentary and also participated in the Howard event. Tuckson connected the Tuskegee study to issues related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy today.
“As a result of what happened to these men, it changed the course of American clinical research,” Tuckson states in the documentary. “It created the institutional review boards, which is a very important intervention, which says there must be people who can examine every study that is done on human beings in this country.”
The Howard event was attended by Howard University Hospital Chief Executive Anita Jenkins; Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, who serves as the director of the District of Columbia department of health; and Dr. Cameron Webb, a senior policy adviser for COVID-19 equity at the White House.
More information can be found at www.GetVaccineAnswers.org/Legacy.