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Health News of Thursday, 15 October 2020


Coronavirus: Vaccine trials must have more people of colour as participants – Physician

An emergency room physician who studies racism and sexism in medicine, Dr. Esther Choo, says there should be a disproportionate representation of people of colour in the COVID-19 vaccine studies.

Online platform, MarketWatch, states that a handful of firms, including Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. had publicly said they were pushing to enroll a more diverse group of participants in the pivotal Phase 3 trials of their coronavirus vaccine candidates.

However, Choo, who practices at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, isn’t quite sure that’s good enough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that impact health — including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and increased exposure to the coronavirus due to occupation (e.g., frontline, essential, and critical infrastructure workers).

“Balanced representation should be disproportionate representation of black and brown people, because they’re more affected by the disease,” Choo said; adding, “Investors should be really asking them ‘what are your plans,’ so that this is as widely disseminated as possible.”

The medium reported that it was not totally clear why COVID-19 has had an uneven impact on people of colour in the U.S.

“It could be the prevalence of pre-existing conditions like hypertension or obesity that are common among certain groups of people, a lack of a medical safety net that may drive lower-income people to seek care later, or having to work in higher-risk service environments like grocery stores or nursing homes during the pandemic,” MarketWatch said.

“Every single factor about exposure has a differential that favours people who are not brown or black,” Choo said.

But even before there was a pandemic, there have long been problems with adequate representation of people of colour in clinical trials that have been acknowledged by both the Food and Drug Administration and drug makers.

Research from 2011 found that Black Americans and Hispanic Americans made up 12 percent and 16 percent of the population, respectively, but less than six percent of clinical trial enrollment.

A study published earlier this year concluded that information about race for six potential COVID-19 treatment studies was inconsistently collected and reported, and the number of Black patients who were included in the trials were under-represented, compared with the percentage of the Black population who have been sickened by the virus.

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