In September, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized certain COVID-19 treatments seemingly based more on presidential puffery than on clinical data, some physicians decided to take matters into their own hands.
Specifically, the National Medical Association, a professional society of African American doctors, formed its own in-house FDA to vet the data when the official one seemed not to be. At first, the task force was framed as a stand-in — another instance in the long history of Black leaders stepping in where the government had failed. And eventually, its members did review the results and endorse the emergency authorizations for both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
But they’ve moved beyond mere recommendations. They’ve also taken on the slower, more painstaking work of building and maintaining patients’ trust in these vaccines. As Rodney Hood, one of the physicians on the NMA task force, put it, “We realize that Black people are at the highest risk for coronavirus but the least likely to want to take the vaccine, so we’re trying to reverse that.”
Racism in the health care system is part of the reason that the NMA exists. The American Medical Association, which set standards for the profession, repeatedly denied membership to Black doctors — so in 1895, they founded a group of their own, “conceived in no spirit of racial exclusiveness, fostering no ethnic antagonisms, but born out of the exigency of the American environment.”
—Eric Boodman, STAT