CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Massachusetts General Hospital reports there are about 135 different coronavirus vaccines being tested around the world. Those vaccine trials are recruiting minorities because they are being disproportionately impacted by the virus.
“When I get the shot, I do a daily diary for a week. And now I’m doing weeklies,” said Garry Bonnemere, a New Yorker who volunteered to be a vaccine patient after receiving a newsletter from a research lab in Rochester. As a Black man, he thought it might be advantageous.
“The African American community is impacted quite a bit,” he said. “And for me, too, I’m also in that age group that virus affects and I need to be safe. “
Studies show that COVID-19 is hitting vulnerable and historically disadvantaged populations the hardest. Black Americans are 2.1 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans, according to an August CDC report. Native Americans are 1.4 times as likely. And in Hispanic and Latino persons, the number is 1.1.
Infectious disease experts like Dr. Richard Novak — who has been testing vaccines for 25 years — said when it comes to medicinal trials, minority recruitment isn’t always high.
“Part of the challenge is that there is a great deal of mistrust particularly in the African American community in participating in research, because of the history of clinical research among African Americans,” said Novak.
One example is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in the mid-1900s when Black participants were not informed that penicillin was available as a viable treatment.
Dr. Novak is now at the helm of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial in Chicago, which is in its final stage of testing. But he raised concerns about a lack of minority participants coming forward, and the company agreed to slow down its study.
“The more [people] they enroll, the more they are paid and so there’s motivation to just enroll quickly,” said Novak. “Ideally it should reflect the population of the country”
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The 30,000 patient-trial, which was originally made up mostly of white participants, is now focusing more on minority recruitment. It is a move that physicians and advocates are applauding.
“When we don’t have input from diverse populations, then these interventions down the line may not be able to be adequately adopted by the populations that need them most,” said Chicago psychologist Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler.
Doctors revering people like Garry who are volunteering their time and bodies to science in hopes of finding a cure.
“If I can do this in some small way to help do that then, it’s good for me and it’s good for everybody else,” he said.
In order for more universally affective vaccines to be made available, these trials need more diverse groups to come forward.
Experts say find the closest trial location to you and enroll. You can opt-out at any time if you so choose, and in some cases you could even get paid to take part.