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The presidents of two historically Black colleges in New Orleans completely surprised their respective campuses when they announced in a joint message that they had recently participated in a vaccine trial for COVID-19. 

They major surprised was what came next. Following the supposed testing, the professors then encouraged students to do the same. Which obviously raised a few eyebrows to say the least. 

The two professors, Walter M. Kimbrough of Dillard University and C. Reynold Verret of Xavier University of Louisiana turned heads in early September after announcing what they had done. The message immediately conjured up conversations about a common distrust of medical institutions among Black Americans. 

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This distrust is obviously fueled by an extended list of past malpractice, especially the study of untreated syphilis among Black men, which is historically known as The Tuskegee Experiment. 

“We’re protecting our communities,” Verret told NBC News. “It is important to have people like us in these trials. We all know someone who has passed or been hit with COVID-19. When a vaccine comes, we want it to be available and to work on our community. Participating in trials is the only way to do so. We only have 1 or 2 percent; we need 10 to 15 percent participation.”

While the professors and our President explain the many benefits of vaccination, many like Seth Calloway, a 2004 graduate of Dillard, said they were concerned that impressionable students may take the encouragement as an edict.

“While I understand the need for more African Americans in these trials, especially with how disproportionately our communities are being affected, I worry that such a request from the leaders of our schools may be interpreted as more of a demand to the students,” Calloway, a senior project manager at Life Tagger, a social media management tool, said. “College is a transitional period from youth — relying on their parents — to adults who make their own decisions. However, during this time they are extremely influenced by what the professors, or in this case presidents, are telling them they should do.”

Moving forward, the convo on vaccination with for sure heat up. And we will keep you posted as more details come out,