The recent protests against racism and inequity in the United States affect the medical community as well. Black and Latino communities must be a part of the critical research to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. Will the vaccine protect against getting COVID-19 or, if you do get it, cause the illness to be less dire? Without Black and Brown participants, there is no way of knowing if it would be effective in our community.
Vaccine trials should include individuals from communities that have the highest risk of infection. When it comes to Covid-19, those who are at risk come from communities that are disproportionately minority. To match local demographics of Covid-19, Black and Latino individuals would need to comprise up to 40% of vaccine trial participants nationwide.
Yet Covid-19 vaccine trials will likely have challenges meeting enrollment targets. For example, in 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved 11 new cancer drugs based on clinical trials that involved about 4% of Black participants. However, Blacks account for 13% of the U.S. population and have the highest death rate for most cancers.
Most of the clinical trials are working hard to include racially and ethnically diverse participants. With barriers such as limited hours of open clinics and protocols often exclude individuals with pre-existing diseases like diabetes and hypertension, which disproportionately impact minorities of color.
Another barrier to fair clinical trial participation is the structural racism that has plagued this country for years. The U.S. has a horrific history of unethical medical experimentation on Black men and women. From surgeries performed without anesthesia, to the misappropriation of cervical tissue from Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. So, here is where the understandable mistrust of clinical research. Even if a Covid-19 vaccine were available and proven effective, only 54% of Black adults would be willing to take it, compared to that of 74% of whites. The sordid history and ongoing structural inequity could affect clinical trial participation.
There is some promising news; researchers suggest that “Each vaccine should test on about 30,000 volunteers,” More than 138,600 people have signed up to take part in the testing. There should be at least 30,000 volunteers for the FOUR companies that plan to launch Phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccines by fall 2020.
The Food and Drug Administration suggests that many vaccine candidates be in populations most affected by COVID-19, such as ethnic and racial minorities, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions that can worsen COVID-19. How do Black People get fair representation in the Covid-19 vaccine trials?
Here were some suggestions:
*Acknowledge the problem. We must recognize the importance of the recruitment of Black and Latino participants in these studies. Studies must report the demographics of trial enrollment while they are in real-time.
* Provide appropriate funding to trial sites to support diversity initiatives. Funds to translate informed consent forms, reimburse participants for transportation, staff clinics on weekends and evenings, and advertise many neighborhoods and media outlets.
* Address the mistrust of clinical research by engaging with communities. Researchers need to meet with local officials and leaders in Black and Latino communities, with virtual town halls, interviews on local radio, and get out there on social media.
*Lastly, there are also suggestions for paying people back for trusting in the medical research community. Looking at the “Big Picture,”; the fair and transparent distribution of an effective Covid-19 vaccine is paramount regardless of race, ethnicity, or the ability to pay for it. Vaccines can be transformative by helping communities to come out safely from this pandemic and rebuild.
For our health concerns, the Black and Latino communities must be a part of the critical attempt to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, but the decision is yours.
Shera Strange is a Fitness Professional & writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @Facebook: Strange Fitness Inc and www.strangefitness.com.