A Sept. 27, “Minorities need more representation in vaccine trials,” provides an important request from major drug companies for minority participation in new and upcoming clinical trials for a vaccine to cure COVID-19.
The race by major drug companies to the finish line to obtain an effective vaccine to eradicate COVID-19 may add to increased death tolls of people of color, principally African Americans.
In the editorial, many issues associated with the lack of participation by most vulnerable populations are highlighted. However, historical factors associated with limited participation of the most vulnerable populations are not addressed.
To address these important factors, acknowledgment of the history of African Americans and other people of color in scientific experimentation is necessary. Well documented are earlier studies in which people of color did not fare well in clinical trials. Frequently mentioned studies are “The Tuskegee Experiment,” the infamous syphilis study that began in 1932, and the work of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina starting in 1933.
Over time, these experiments and studies have created fear, mistrust and other concerns among African-Americans and other minorities.
Historically, failures to address these concerns by drug manufacturers, researchers and communities at large lead to serious challenges for the scientific and medical community and drug companies, and the population at large.
Responsibilities to address the serious challenges remain. It is imperative for medical drug companies, the Centers for Disease Control, federal, state and local government to begin scientific discussions and inquiry.
In the race to the finish line for a vaccine, it is obvious we cannot afford to leave behind any runners, especially African Americans and other people of color. To win the race, clinical trials must ensure safety for successful outcomes.
Donald E. Ensley