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KCUR: Meet The Kansas City Doctor Who Wants Black And Latino Volunteers For A Coronavirus Vaccine Trial

By Luke X. Martin 

It's good news that pharmaceutical company Pfizer has developed a highly-effective vaccine for the coronavirus. But, one of Kansas City's leading infectious disease experts, Dr. Barbara Pahud, says it may also keep some people from volunteering for other vaccine trials currently underway.

"It's hard for people who don't do this for a living to understand we still need to do the research," Pahud says. "Because if the only vaccine that comes out to the public is Pfizer, we're not going to have enough vaccine for everybody."

That's why Pahud, who researches diseases at Children's Mercy, is co-leading the local effort to develop AstraZeneca's vaccine. 

The trials are back on now, and Pahud is making a special effort to get more African Americans and Latinos involved.

"You need to be able to study these products in different populations, different age groups, in order to see how that product is going to work in them," Pahud says.

Her mission is very much a personal one. Pahud grew up and trained as a doctor in Mexico and has worked to help underserved and underrepresented communities since she moved to the United States.

After living in Mexico City, New York City and San Francisco, a move to the Midwest seemed a little crazy, "but I loved the hospital so much in their mission, that I just felt like I could learn to live in a smaller place like Kansas City," she said. "And I just love being here now."

One more tool easing the search is a tour bus-sized mobile laboratory which lets clinical coordinators recreate the exacting conditions needed for vaccine research including refrigerators, centrifuges, nurses and research staff.

"The mobile unit is my dream come true," Pahud says.

Pahud estimates her team will continue looking for volunteers through December or January, and, with case numbers rising across the country, there's no break in sight for her.

"It has been very rough, I am not going to lie to you," she says. "This is really our calling — this is what we signed up to do — and so this is our time to make it happen."


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