Researchers developing a COVID-19 vaccine are struggling to enroll minorities in clinical trials to test the experimental vaccines, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Clinical trials to evaluate drugs and vaccines historically underrepresent minorities, but racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely than white people to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19, partly due to socioeconomic factors and underlying health conditions.
Hospitalization rates for Black and Latinx COVID-19 patients are nearly five times those of whites, according to the CDC, and Black people suffer almost a quarter of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. despite making up only about 13 percent of the population.
Public health officials have said that for a vaccine to be effective, it has to be proved successful in all age groups, races and ethnicities. FDA guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines say the agency encourages the enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities, but it won’t require it for approval, the Journal reported.
The drug industry has a poor record of minority participation in clinical trials. Last year, Black people made up about 9 percent of participants in trials for new drugs, while about 75 percent were white, according to FDA data cited by the Journal.
Some researchers have joined with community leaders, churches and advocacy groups to educate the public about the benefits of vaccination and have hoped that conducting trials in locations with large minority populations will help increase enrollment.
The National Black Church Initiative, which is made up of about 150,000 churches in the U.S., is working with Moderna to increase enrollment, the Journal reported. Pastors will help educate church members about vaccines and encourage enrollment.
But with vaccine development moving so quickly, some scientists fear drugmakers won’t agree on wide-ranging recruitment strategies that may cost more time and money, the Journal reported.
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