Data in the United States shows that communities of colour are more at risk of contracting COVID-19, yet they are the least represented in vaccine trials.
There are now growing calls from health officials to recruit more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to the trials in an effort to make them adequately representative of the wider population.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s latest tally – carried out on September 28 – showed just 9 percent of its volunteers for testing were Black. Native Americans made up 0.7. Another company, Moderna, slowed its trials in September until it was able to enroll more minorities. It grew its participation of Black Americans from 7 percent to 30 percent.
COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, has run rampant in minority communities who often live with comorbidities that complicate exposure, testing and treatment. Black, Latino and indigenous Americans also make up a high percentage of essential workers, who were unable to quarantine.
History, too, plays its part. In 1932, hundreds of Black men were recruited to a trial that falsely promised them free syphilis treatment. Instead, they were observed as the illness took its course. In the mid 1800s, James Marion Sims conducted hundreds of experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. And in the 1960s and 70s, hundreds of Native American women were forcibly sterilised by the Indian Health Service after being admitted for routine medical procedures. Such episodes have sewn distrust.
Now, a series of advertisements and outreach carried out by churches, unions and social services organisations is aimed at reversing the trend for COVID-19 vaccine trials. In this episode of The Stream, we look at those efforts and ask a panel of experts what more can be done.
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