Biology major Shawntavia Bailey ’23 began her summer research intending to study effective practices to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is hard to distribute it when a lot of people aren’t taking it,” she said.
She revised her research question to ask, “Why does the Black community not trust the COVID-19 vaccine and can anything be done about it?”
Of particular interest to her was whether the historical implications of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study — which enrolled 600 Black men without their informed consent and withheld medical treatment from them — have influenced vaccination rates in the Black community.
Shawntavia conducted a series of interviews in her hometown, Rochester, New York, and concluded that her interview subjects “are very knowledgeable and aware of the past, especially regarding the Tuskegee Experiment. This is what makes many scared that history will repeat itself.”
“Trust cannot be bought or rewarded,” Shawntavia continued.
Many people in the Black community do not trust the public health establishment and vaccine mandates and incentives — like offers to forgive parking tickets with proof of vaccination — do not address this lack of trust, she said.
“In order to build that trust, showing evidence that the vaccine is not harmful and won’t cause future complications to one or their future generations is a good potential start,” she wrote in her research paper, titled “Conspiracy Opportunity Vaccine Ignored Damage.”
In addition to her paper, Shawntavia created a multimedia presentation titled “Black COVID Thoughts,” which features three of her interviewees speaking about their concerns about side effects and decision to forgo the vaccine.
She presented her work at the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) summer research symposium in July.
Shawntavia is a Biology major who hopes to attend medical school. Her research mentor was Associate Professor of Chemistry Emilly Obuya, Ph.D.
The following students and faculty and professional mentors also collaborated on CSTEP-supported summer research in 2021:
Breanna Burns ’23, Eden Kuri ’22 and Assistant Professor and Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement Ali Schaeffing, Ph.D.: “College Access and Newcomer Students: Bridging the Gap to Promote Educational Success”
Sarah-Gabrielle Casimir ’22 and Associate Professor of Chemistry Emilly Obuya, Ph.D.: “Synthesis of silver nanoparticles and their application in increasing the efficiency of solar disinfection (SODIS) water contaminated with E.coli bacteria”
Mariah Van Avery ’22, Robert Martiniano DrPH, MPA, Senior Program Manager, Center for Health Workforce Studies and Anh Le, Program Coordinator, Hudson Mohawk AHEC: “Understanding the Impact of Victimization on Teen Pregnancy of Sexual Minority Women”
Ruquiah Laville ‘22, Robert Martiniano DrPH, MPA, Senior Program Manager, Center for Health Workforce Studies and Anh Le, Program Coordinator, Hudson Mohawk AHEC: “Implicit Bias and Disparities in Maternal Mortality”
Adelyn Santos ’21, Robert Martiniano DrPH, MPA, Senior Program Manager, Center for Health Workforce Studies and Anh Le, Program Coordinator, Hudson Mohawk AHEC: “The Health of Underrepresented Minorities Influenced by Social Factors”
Praescilla Daquin ’22, Kristyna Davis, Chelsea Uzibor ’22, Associate Professor of Nursing Glenda Kelman, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Nursing Gertrude B. Hutchinson, DNS: “The Oral History of the Lived Experience of Russell Sage College Nursing Alumni”