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09:43 AM

USA Today: 'Sign me up': Why people of color are vital to getting a successful COVID-19 vaccine

By Karen Weintraub

Dianne Wilkerson wants Black Bostonians to volunteer for trials testing potential COVID-19 vaccines.

She understands why they're hesitant. Black Americans have a long history of being treated poorly by the medical establishment; many faced discrimination in medical care themselves.

Still, if they don't participate in the trials meant to establish vaccine safety and effectiveness, they'll never know whether the vaccines will work for them.

"The risks for not being involved are so great," said Wilkerson, a founding member of Boston's Black COVID-19 Coalition.

The first two large-scale vaccine trials began nationwide in late July, and at least three more will start before early fall. Each one will need 30,000 volunteers, half of whom will get an active vaccine and half a placebo.

Federal officials – including the heads of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – have called for these trials to include a large number of people of color.

Dr. Barbara Pahud has a plan: If not enough people of color will come to major medical centers to volunteer for clinical trials, she'll bring the clinical trials to them.

As a medical student in Mexico, Pahud was given a cooler of shots to deliver to the community. Now, she's has outfitted a van that she plans to park – perhaps at a health center or church – to take vaccine trials where Americans of color spend their time.

Pahud, research director of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said she's also making an effort to hire people who speak Spanish, and to have all printed material available in two languages.

"The usual stuff that should always be done is actually being done this time, which is fantastic," she said.

Researchers and community members will both need to take a risk.

"If we really want to do research that reflects the community that we live in, that is being impacted by this disease, we (researchers) need to change our mindset," Pahud said. On the flip side, "communities need to understand that if they want to benefit from the vaccine, they need to let their people volunteer, or we won't be able to know if the vaccine works in their population."


Read the full story via USA Today

Get information about COVID-19 from Children's Mercy