Expert Pitch

Lack of Black and Hispanic Patients Could Jeopardize COVID-19 Vaccine

American Physiological Society (APS)

Rockville, Md. (September 3, 2020)—Only 10% of the 350,000 people who recently signed up for a coronavirus vaccine clinical trial are Black and Hispanic, according to CNN. This low number of participants is especially concerning given the disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 in these communities.

“Ideally, study subjects in clinical trials would reflect the population most impacted by the disease,” said American Physiological Society (APS) Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair Karla Haack, PhD. “However, a history of medical malpractice and unethical experimentation on communities of color coupled with systemic barriers to enrolling Black and Hispanic people in these trials stand in the way of achieving equitable and life-saving outcomes in affected communities.”

As an expert in cardiovascular physiology and acute respiratory distress syndrome—a common and often deadly complication of COVID-19—and health disparities, and as Black woman in science, Haack is uniquely qualified to comment on issues including:

  • why Black and Hispanic people are historically distrustful of medical experimentation;
  • implicit and explicit biases that affect the doctor-patient relationship;
  • inadequate access to healthcare education in communities of color;
  • the importance of vaccine trial subjects reflecting the demographic most impacted by COVID-19;
  • why trials could be delayed without adequate representation;
  • The importance of transparency in the vaccine development process;
  • why Black and Hispanic doctors and researchers must be included in all stages of drug development; and
  • short- and long-term ways that researchers, healthcare workers and communities of color can build trust.

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