LANSING, Mich. — Right now, nine COVID-19 vaccines are in or near the large-scale human trial phase. But enrollment of minorities in the trials remains a challenge. This, despite a disproportionate number of African-Americans impacted by the Coronavirus. Ash-Har Quraishi looks at the potential impact on the trials and what’s being done to address it.
Earlier this month ads like this from the national institutes of health began airing asking black people and Latinos to volunteer for the Coronavirus vaccine trials may be moving quickly but pharmaceutical companies are having a difficult time getting black and brown participants.
Reverend Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative shares that “What we really bring to the table is moral persuasion and encouraging our population to participate in safe and ethical clinical trials.”
Over the past 15 years they’ve worked with the pharmaceurtical industry to boost black representation in more than a dozen previous clinical trials. Reverend Anthony Evans explains “I think that we have we can be a major help to both the government and the pharmaceutical industry if they use us.”
The black community has been hesitant to take part in medical research and clinical trials because of a history of past abuse. Most infamously the 40-year Tuskegee Syphillis Experiment that used black men to study what happened when the disease went untreated.
Dr. Emily Landon, an epidemiologist with the University of Chicago Medicine explains that “they were just basically experimented on without their knowing about it or their understanding what was happening and a lot of people had very bad outcomes because of this.”
A recent pew study found that Black Americans are still more skeptical of experimental treatments and a potential COVID-19 vaccine than Hispanic and white adults.add to that - most of the current trials are recruiting mainly online - something experts say often results in mostly white people enrolling. Dr. Landon explained “we will know more and be able to do a better job in caring for our friends and patients of color if we have more participation in these trials.”
Moderna, had to delay trials because of a lack of diversity. As of last week 11% of Moderna’s Enrollment volunteers were Black and 59% White. As of this week, only 8% of Pfizers volunteers were Black and 75% White.
Reverend Evans shared “they are going to have a significant shortfall of data when it comes down to African-Americans and other groups and especially Latinos and simply because they have not made the efforts.”In the end the vaccine must be at least 50% effective to receive FDA approval. Without a diverse group of volunteers experts say it could be difficult to know just how safe & effective the vaccine actually is across races.
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