Researchers struggling to get Black participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials

Researchers struggling to get Black participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 vaccine trials are happening all over the country, but they need more participants.

According to a 2020 Pew Research study taken in May, 44% of Black people would not get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available to them at that time.

Researchers say getting them to participate in clinical trials is an even tougher sell.

“It is difficult to get African-Americans to participate and I think this arises from the past experiences and injustices that have occurred like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment," said Dr. Mona Wicks, Chairwoman of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UT Health Science Center College of Nursing.

She also points to how doctors obtained cells from a black woman named Henrietta Lack back in the 1950s without her consent.

Her cells would be used for years for various medical experiments.

Wick says those medical mishaps from years ago can still be felt today, but researchers need more Black people to agree to participate in the COVID-19 vaccine trials.

“Because African Americans are disproportionately affected so they need to be on these trials to see if the vaccines will work,” said Wick.

Black people make up 61% of all COVID-19 fatalities in Shelby County.

Wick says the process to finalize a COVID-19 vaccine will be a long one.

She’s confident that it won’t be available before next year.

“I know that it takes a while and it takes a while because we have to follow them over a certain period of time. It takes a while because you have to recruit them and monitor them,” said Wick.

Wick says the FDA traditionally will not approve a vaccine until it has been deemed safe to be used by everyone.

The Pfizer clinical COVID-19 trial administered by CNS healthcare is a blind trial which means some people will receive a placebo and others will get the vaccine.

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