With the search for the COVID-19 vaccine well underway, experts say that there is a large gap in research of accurate representation of the American public, particularly from senior and minority populations.
With more than 204,000 Americans reported dead from COVID-19, of those deaths 80 percent occurred in those 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19 walk away having mild symptoms and some show no symptoms at all, research is showing that seniors and those with preexisting health conditions have a much more difficult time-fighting COVID-19.
Another portion of Americans that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus is minority groups. It has been proven that infection rates are 2 to 3 times higher in communities of color, and Black Americans are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than White Americans, as recorded by federal data.
When it comes to recovering from severe illness, the hospitalization rates among Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans are 4 to 5 times higher than those for White Americans.
Drug companies say otherwise
Several of the U.S.’s vaccine developer frontrunners recently released details about the diversity of the participants in their trials. Pfizer, which plans to recruit 44,000 volunteers for their vaccine trial, says that about 27 percent of its U.S. volunteers so far “have diverse backgrounds”. The research facility recorded 12 percent Hispanics, 8 percent are Black, 5 percent are Asian, and about 0.6 percent are Native American.
Meanwhile, Moderna reports that approximately 31 percent of its 27,232 participants are from communities of color. The biotech company announced that it plans to enroll at least another 30,000 participants in its phase 3 clinical trials.
Volunteering is not for everyone
Participating in a large research study is not for everyone. However, vaccines do not work unless they are tested. But there are risks to participating in any sort of medical trial. This is certainly the largest factor preventing people from signing up for vaccine studies: safety concerns. A national survey from the Pew Research Center shows that the number of Americans who intend to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is decreasing rapidly, and a lot has to do with unease over the rushed development process from the Trump Administration.
In addition, the unknown risks associated with participating in a clinical trial can be scary. All volunteers, including those injected with the placebo, can expect some pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, similar to a flu shot. Some participants have also reported fevers and achy joints. Those are just the expected reactions to any type of vaccine trial.
According to earlier Moderna’s vaccine trial stages, their vaccine caused less severe side-effects in their elderly candidates compared to younger people, possibly as a result of less robust immune systems among the old. The actual shot is simply two injections in the shoulder much like the traditional flu shot.
Do you want to volunteer?
Volunteering for coronavirus vaccine trials is an opportunity for people to contribute to their community in trying to put an end to this disease, and to participate in an altruistic way!
COVID-19 Prevention Network recently launched a call center to answer questions and enroll interested volunteers. The network is also working with leaders in minority communities to help build trust and generate interest in the trials.
Interested? Call 866-288-1919 (TOLLFREE) to volunteer today!