Historically marginalized communities not well-represented in COVID-19 vaccine trials

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- COVID-19 vaccine testing is well underway but there's concern that we won't know exactly how well they work in the communities that need them most.

Companies conducting the trials are reporting a lack of participation among historically marginalized groups, especially in the Black community.

Those trying to recruit minority groups to take part in vaccine studies say history may play a part in the reluctance.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, Black men in Alabama were intentionally misled by the medical community about syphilis experiments conducted on them at the Tuskegee Institute.

During that same period in North Carolina and elsewhere, eugenics programs were sterilizing women either without their full consent or knowledge.

A very large majority of those women were Black.

Now that historic distrust may be affecting the Black community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"What research has known for some years now is that minorities have been unrepresented in clinical trials," said Aubrey Farray.

Farray is Black and the clinical director for Wake Research, which is conducting trials on COVID-19 vaccines from four different companies under the federal government's Operation Warp Speed.

He knows the history of how African Americans were abused by the medical community.

"A lot of that fear and apprehension from those events could very well still exist," Farray said.

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And maybe that's why Black people make up only 7.75 percent of the participants in Wake Research's vaccine studies when that population makes up 22 percent of the local pool from which Wake Research draws.

There are also similar shortages in the Latino and other ethnic communities.

"So we're at a standpoint of doing more education. Kind of dispelling the myths with regards to clinical trials to make sure these different ethnic groups are aware of these regulatory protections in place on their behalf to instill more confidence in the clinical trial process," Farray said.

Farray said there's a message on Wake Research's website for potential minority trial participants.

He noted there is a lot of information available online about the legal protections for trial participants.

"The minority communities have been hit pretty hard by this virus, this pandemic. And so it's incumbent upon us to make sure we're a part of the solution," he said.

And there's another incentive.

Most of the trials being conducted right now are paying anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.
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