Black pastors say they will adopt a wait-and-see approach rather than recommend the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine to their congregations.
12 Black pastors interviewed by Reuters news agency cited concerns over the rapid development of the vaccines and the lack of evidence for or against long-term side effects.
A.R. Bernard, pastor of a Brooklyn megachurch, said he is concerned that Black people are being singled out as guinea pigs for a vaccine that is not fully tested.
"We're concerned about it being tested on persons of color," Bernard told Reuters.
The Centers for Disease Control has urged all 50 states to consider giving Blacks and Hispanics priority over whites when distributing the vaccines.
Bernard and other Black pastors declined a major healthcare organization's invitation to sit on a committee aimed at promoting the vaccines within the Black community.
Bernard, who was hospitalized with the virus in March, said he wants to take a "wait and see" approach until there is more information about the vaccine's long-term effects.
Dismayed health officials had hoped that the Black clergy could convince Black people to roll up their sleeves for the vaccine.
A recent poll revealed that just 49% of Black people say they will take the vaccine vs. 63% of white people.
Black pastors cite a deep-seated mistrust in the government and the medical establishment among Black people.
"What we're dealing with right now is the byproduct of... generations of distrust, suspicion and fear with regard to how medical systems work," said Edwin Sanders, head of Metropolitan International Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
"I can't in good faith tell my people to accept this wholesale, but I also am not trying to support any type of baseless conspiracy theories. It's a tightrope that I have to walk here," said Earle Fisher, pastor of the Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
Of the 12 pastors interviewed by Reuters only 1 said he is willing to take the vaccine but he wouldn't recommend the shots to his parishioners.