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Kansas City Star: Wanted: 1,250 volunteers for KC COVID vaccine test. Will the right people sign up?

By Lisa Gutierrez

A search for a COVID-19 vaccine widens in Kansas City this week with an urgent appeal for 1,250 volunteers. And they can’t all be young and white.

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center and Children’s Mercy are using a unique outreach to take a vaccine from drug maker AstraZeneca directly to groups known to be historically underrepresented in clinical trials but at highest risk of COVID-19.

The news Monday that a vaccine from Pfizer has shown, early on, to be effective at preventing the virus sparked widespread optimism. But vaccines cannot be offered to the general public without first being tested on people willing to take them in their experimental form, before they’re officially pronounced safe and effective.

Now a mobile medical unit is hitting the road to register Black, Hispanic and elderly residents in the Kansas City area and Wichita, to make sure local vaccine trials reflect the broader community.

KU and Children’s Mercy are running one of 62 AstraZeneca trial sites across the study. 

“The concern we have with this virus is it’s disproportionately hitting African American, Latino populations, and those are not the populations that normally line up to come enroll in clinical trials,” said Dr. Barbara Pahud, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Children’s Mercy.

Some Latinos are afraid to even step foot inside a hospital for fear they might be met by U.S. immigration authorities and worse, be deported. “Those fears are real,” said Pahud.

“So there’s mistrust for the medical community and research in general from these populations that are currently being impacted by COVID,” said Pahud. “So the goal was, how do we get to them since we know they are not going to come to us.

“The mobile units was one of the ways that we felt we could do it because we did a lot of outreach with our community partners and they told us our participants who are African American and Latino are not going to come to KU. They’re not going to go there.  It’s too far, it’s too expensive, it’s scary for them. They don’t know how to navigate the system there and it’s just intimidating. If we want them to participate in our studies, we need to go to them.”

The trial involves a series of seven visits over two years time. Participants will receive two injections, with follow-up visits needed for blood work. For every three participants, two will get the active vaccine and one will get a placebo. Screening and the first injection will happen on the same day.


Read the full story via The Kansas City Star 

Register for the trial at the Coronavirus Prevention Network website 

Learn more information about COVID-19 from Children's Mercy