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Medical racism melds genetic risk

Documents created by Pfizer for the meeting with

Documents created by Pfizer for the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, which initially recommended the company's COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. Credit: AP/Jon Elswick

Yes, diversity is critical for participation in clinical vaccine trials, but not because of "genetic" differences ["Experts: Diversity critical in COVID-19 vaccine trials," News, Dec. 8]. Race is a social construct that lacks any valid genetic meaning. Emphasizing the biological difference between Black and white people underscores the key factor in distrust of the health care system — medical racism. Medical racism is rooted in the notion of biological difference, that Black bodies are presumed to be different from whites. Enslaved people were frequently used as unwilling subjects in clinical studies; modern gynecology is based on surgeries done on Black women without anesthesia. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study persisted for decades rooted in the racist notion of a biological difference between races. The increased risk for COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths among Black, Latinx, and indigenous groups is not because of genetics, but due to lack of access to testing, inadequate health care, crowded housing conditions, and increased exposure to the virus through work and transportation. Reinforcing the false notion of genetic difference between races increases distrust of the health system. All volunteers for vaccine trials should be applauded for helping keep us safe from COVID-19. I believe that racial and ethnic minorities should be prioritized for vaccine distribution.

Martine Hackett,

Hempstead

Editor’s note: The writer is associate professor in the Health Professions department at the School of Health Sciences and Human Services at Hofstra University.

For anyone who lived with the threat of polio in the 1950s and saw relatives and friends die, spend the rest of their lives in iron lungs or having to walk with crutches, there should be no question of doubting the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. Children lined up for our vaccinations and defeated this disease. Stop doubting the vaccine. Stop making it a political issue. We live together and need this vaccine, or we will not defeat this menace.

Joel Beckerman,

Westbury

I am stunned by what I view as the Orwellian newspeak of Arthur Caplan, head of NYU’s Division of Medical Ethics ["Unsafe resistance against vaccines," Opinion, Dec. 8]. He promises, without proof, that first users of the COVID-19 vaccine will get protection with no serious side effects. This vaccine is a completely new type, mRNA, with no long-term human studies that has been fast-tracked into production. Is it ethical to coerce people to take what I see as a poorly tested medical treatment? He writes that he sees the potential for businesses to require proof of vaccination to receive their services as would government and private employers. He then uses, in my view, a twisted logic to say, "Vaccination, now associated with coercion and mistrust, will be understood as a key to freedom and a return to normalcy." Right, and war is peace. Slavery is freedom. Ignorance is strength.

Ken Vatter,

Centereach

Crystals are pretty, but that’s all they are

At a time that we constantly hear the phrase "follow the science," I open Newsday to see a several-page article about crystals ["Crystal clear," explore LI, Dec. 7]. Although collecting minerals, including crystals, can be fun and educational, implying that crystals have any effect on us or our health is nonsense, in my opinion. Crystals are packed-together atoms that, depending on the molecules that they are made of, form shapes in six different ways. They have no effect on anything around them. I have been collecting minerals for years, received a degree in geology and spent 33 years teaching earth science. We need the media to give us real science that we can educate students with, not pseudoscience which is often used to scam people.

Paul Fein,

Oceanside

Tax dollars pay for birthing scheme

I can almost understand middle-class to upper-middle-class Turkish pregnant women wanting their babies born in the United States ["Feds: Six charged in LI ‘birth tourism’ scheme," News, Dec. 3]. It is the American dream. Our American dream as U.S. citizens is to work hard and pay our taxes. It is unfathomable that more than $2 million of taxpayer dollars allegedly was stolen to pay for Medicaid benefits for these women and their "operators." I imagine if word was not dropped about this, it would still continue under Suffolk County’s nose. It’s amazing, especially since I tried applying for Medicaid for my husband and the paperwork was so overwhelming that we gave up. I guess if we had the time and resources these people had, we could have applied. So, do Suffolk County taxpayers get reimbursed? Do these people get a slap on the wrist? Where are these women and babies now, continuing to live large off our taxpayer dollars? Why do we bother to pay taxes? It’s abhorrent.

Donna Skjeveland,

Holbrook

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