vaccine, trial
(Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

As COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Commence, Diversity Becomes a Vital Issue

As the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts diverse communities, the need for greater diversity in vaccine trials is very evident. Black and Latinx people have been three times as likely as white people to be infected with the virus, and twice as likely to die, but they have historically made up disproportionately small percentages of medical trial groups. Because medical test subjects participate in trials on a volunteer basis, increasing diversity in upcoming COVID-19 vaccine trials has been a challenge.

In addition to Black and Latinx people facing the challenges of COVID-19 at higher rates than white people, Asian Americans and the elderly also face disparities. According to data, 8 out of 10 of those who die from COVID-19 are elderly, and Asian Americans account for fewer cases in the U.S. but have higher death rates.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has guidelines on including elderly people, women and people of color in trials, and advocates have been pushing to diversity these studies. However, according to research, Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population and 5% of trial participants. Hispanic and Latinx people make up 18% of the population and 1% of trial participants.

Kaiser Health News reports that research shows people of different races may respond differently to certain medical treatments. The reasons for these discrepancies are not well-understood, but nonetheless point toward the importance of diversity in trials for treatments of various illnesses. Additionally, the medical community knows that immune response decreases with age. There are higher-dose flu shots for seniors for this reason.

Related story: MIT Study Finds Race an Important Factor in Determining Deaths from COVID-19

Although diversity in the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine trials is important, so is making injections immediately available. Drugmakers are accelerating the development of the vaccine, but recruiting people from various communities to take part in these studies takes time. Guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “strongly encourages” diverse test subjects, but as the government is fast-tracking the development of these vaccines, companies are not required to disclose their demographic goals.

Related story: Johnson & Johnson Working to Develop Potential Vaccine for COVID-19

Attracting ethnically and age-diverse candidates requires agility. Unequal access to health care for people of color due to systemic poverty and culturally incompetent treatment alienates many underrepresented populations from trials. Older people with limited mobility, hearing and vision may require extra help to understand and follow protocols.

Additionally, cultural perceptions of medicine may also get in the way. Black people report higher distrust of the medical profession — a reality rooted in the racist history of medical trials such as the Tuskegee Study and invasive reproductive testing on Black women exploiting Black bodies for medical gain. Fear of being treated like guinea pigs is a real obstacle.

Latest News

Flint, Michigan water plant

Ex-Michigan Governor Charged for Racist Lead Poisoning of Flint Water Supply; COVID-19 Vaccines Not Increasing in Availability; Democrats Plan to Repeal Trump Rules; and More

Former Michigan Governor formally charged for poisoning thousands of predominantly Black Flint citizens with water containing lead. In 2014, when the city of Flint was forced by the state to begin taking its water supply from the Flint river rather than using water from nearby Detroit as it had for…

NYPD under suit

NYPD Sued for Years of Racial Abuse and Use of Excessive Force; Trump Administration Approves Discrimination Against LGBTQ individuals; and More

NYPD sued by Attorney General for years of racial abuse and use of excessive force. In what’s been called a “landmark lawsuit,” The New York Times has reported that New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing the city of New York, the mayor and the NYPD’s leaders, alleging…

Toyota Research Institute and Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab Study How to Improve Automotive Safety

Originally published on pressroom.toyota.com. Inspired by the Skills of Professional Drift Drivers, Research Seeks to Combine the Technology of Vehicle Automation with Artificial Intelligence Algorithms What if every driver who ran into trouble had the instinctive reflexes of a professional race car driver and the calculated foresight of a supercomputer…

Tribal elder

Loss of Tribal Elders Due to COVID-19 Decimating Indigenous Populations; Colorado Revamps Common-Law Marriage Requirements, Making Them More Friendly for LGBTQ Couples; and More

Loss of tribal elders due to COVID-19 decimating Indigenous populations. The Muscogee, Navajo, Blackfeet Nation, White Mountain Apache and Choctaw tribes are among the many communities of Indigenous people suffering irreparable losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Times reporter Jack Healy has reported. Already impacted by infection rates…

Justice for George Floyd

Officer Who Pressed Knee Into George Floyd’s Neck to Stand Trial Alone; Judge Halts Federal Execution of Lisa Montgomery, Only Woman on Death Row

Officer who pressed knee into George Floyd’s neck to stand trial alone in March. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — the man who can be seen on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for an excruciating 8 minutes and 46 seconds — will now stand trial alone,…

BASF Starts Global Registration for New and Environmentally Friendly Insecticide Active Ingredient

Originally published on BASF.com. BASF ranked No. 14 on The 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Regulatory dossiers for Axalion™insecticide submitted in Australia and Korea Active ingredient with novel mode of action and high compatibility with beneficial insects, including pollinators First sales for Axalion-based products expected by 2023…

TIAA’s Roger Ferguson on Solving the Student Debt Crisis

CEO Roger Ferguson shares how TIAA (No. 9 on 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) teamed up with loan wellness platform Savi to help nonprofit workers reduce monthly student debt payments and work toward forgiveness. Watch his full talk at the link below. https://www.tiaa.org/public/foward-focus-/episode-7-your-financial-future-the-path-forward