People of color needed for COVID-19 vaccine trialsBy Veita Bland, M.D. / September 18, 2020
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As I write this article, 194,000 people have died from COVID-19 and this number grows each day. In the United States, we are losing 1,000 people per day. The numbers continuously show that we are far from controlling this highly contagious virus. The numbers are also a harbinger of the fact that in the U.S. this pandemic is far from being over. I abhor that there are models predicting a loss of life of more than 300,000 people due to COVID-19 before the end of this year. What are we to expect by the New Year? More of the same?
We are hopeful that a vaccine will be developed which will be helpful. However, we must also be realistic in considering several points. First, we must recognize that we are hopeful for a vaccine and not assured of a vaccine. Second, we must understand that a vaccine will not be 100 percent effective in all individuals. Third, if we do have an effective vaccine, it will take time to administer it to everyone willing to take it. Fourth, a vaccine takes time to work. For example, the flu vaccine typically takes two weeks to produce immunity to the flu. Fifth, not all people will be willing to be inoculated and therefore, we will need to vaccinate a certain percentage of people to achieve the goal of immunity. Sixth, it will take time to produce the amount of vaccines needed to administer to the U.S. population as well as to the rest of the world.
I think most people are aware that COVID-19 clinical trials are now being performed on several vaccines. These trials are critical to making sure that a vaccine is safe and effective. People of all ages, ethnicities and medical issues are needed for such trials. Diversity in these clinical trials is imperative in order to make sure a COVID-19 vaccine will be equally affective for everyone. As a hypertension specialist, I know that certain medications are more effective in certain groups of people. Some medications may be more effective in different age groups. So, I tailor the medication to the person I am treating, while examining these and other parameters.
We hope that future COVID-19 vaccines will be effective in all groups of people but if diverse populations are not recruited or fail to volunteer for the clinical trials, we may not truly know a vaccine’s effectiveness.
It is well known that people of color have borne much of the burden of this horrible virus. At present, people of color have not volunteered in vast numbers to be part of the clinical trials.
Certainly, with the previous history of how people of color have been abused and used by some in the medical community, the hesitancy to join such trials is understandable.
Today there are more people in positions to assure that mistreatment is not in the formula. It is time for people of color to take their place at the table and take part in the COVID-19 clinical trials. We need to make sure the vaccines are effective in all people. Let’s take a seat at the table.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.