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Harris implores Black Americans to get Covid vaccines despite 'righteous skepticism'

The U.S. has a long record of unethical medical experimentation on Black Americans.
Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the White House on Feb. 23, 2021.Evan Vucci / AP

Vice President Kamala Harris addressed concerns that some Black Americans have had about Covid-19 vaccines, encouraging them to get the shot despite historical skepticism of the medical field.

"We must speak truth about the history of medical testing in this country," Harris said in an interview with MSNBC's Rev. Al Sharpton.

"We must be honest about the fact that people have a righteous skepticism about how it has been used, how it has been tested and on whom it will be used," Harris said.

The U.S. has a long record of unethical medical experimentation on Black Americans, from non-consensual testing on slaves to forced sterilization during the early 20th century and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. As NBC News has reported, experts have cautioned that this history, along with broader health care disparities in the modern era, has led to a distrust of the vaccine's safety.

Harris pointed to her own experience receiving the Covid vaccine to build trust in others.

"I got vaccinated," she said. "I can tell you first of all that these vaccines are safe. It will save your life. There is a Black woman, Dr. Kizzy Corbet, who was part of the team of scientists who created this vaccine and it will save your life."

"So, get your vaccination when it is your turn," Harris said.

But the vaccines' chaotic rollout, including supply shortages and disruptions with distribution due to winter storms, has created widespread accessibility issues.

The Biden administration recently purchased 200 million doses, and it doubled in distribution numbers last week, sending two million doses to 7,000 pharmacies across the country with its Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The last five weeks have seen a nearly 70 percent increase in vaccine distribution.

Harris visited a local pharmacy and program participant in Washington D.C. Thursday morning, where she also addressed vaccine skepticism.

“There have been many theories about populations that are experiencing vaccine hesitancy for legitimate reasons that are based on historical experience that we should never forget,” Harris said.

Harris' interview with Sharpton airs in full on Saturday.