In the absence of a national strategy, some local groups that help minority communities begin to develop their own plans to engage hard-to-reach patients. In Tucson, Ariz., A health center is planning a digital flash to promote vaccination, and relies on a similar strategy that has helped get thousands through its entry test sites. In Nevada, a non-profit nonprofit brings together a working group to strategize an effective vaccination campaign, bringing together a wide range of groups, from minority health organizations to school nurses.
But it is far from a long-term one national efforts that unite federal authorities, local officials and communities that have often been excluded from such talks. The Trump administration̵
“I already feel behind it,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Respiratory Disease Center last week, when she called for greater involvement with local organizations in at-risk communities.
Federal officials are beginning to weigh that challenge, as they also face many issues that could complicate vaccination efforts, including who should be first in line for the shots. The CDC conducts focus groups to understand the public’s attitude towards Covid-19 vaccination. The National Academies of Science, Technology and Medicine, a leading independent advisory panel, have been commissioned by federal health officials to develop vaccine distribution plans, with explicit instructions to consider high-risk populations and racial differences.
Pharmaceutical companies start their own outreach campaigns and collaborate with groups such as the National Urban League. The Federal Office of Minority Health is also working with the Morehouse School of Medicine for a $ 40 million plan to help inform racial and ethnic minorities about Covid-19, including vaccinations
But the country’s profound history of unethical experimentation and unfair treatment of minorities, such as blacks and Native American communities, has left a distrust of clinical research that could make these groups wary of a new vaccine. While black Americans have been hospitalized for Covid-19 nearly five times more than white people and are about twice as likely to die from it, just over half of black adults say they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine. That’s far fewer than the nearly 75 percent of Hispanic and white adults who say they would, according to a June study from the Pew Research Center.
“We have a number of barriers to broad vaccine coverage but also specifically the people we most want to vaccinate in the African American and Latinx communities most affected by the disease,” said Julie Gerberding, CEO of vaccine maker Merck, former head of the CDC.
A comprehensive vaccination strategy, agreed by public health experts, would have some essential functions. This would ensure that clinical trials are different. It would engage underserved communities to understand their attitudes toward a vaccine and address their concerns. Finally, local groups with deep relationships with people in their communities, such as houses of worship, would serve as important links to resources. None of that has been collected yet for Covid-19.
Guidelines from the National Academies for the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines are unlikely to be completed until the autumn – they are now nicely planned for an October release. At best, some vaccine manufacturers would then be able to share early data from the final stage of clinical trials.
However, vaccine manufacturers have faced a scrutiny of their struggle to register a diverse population in their late-stage clinical trials. Modern, the first company to launch a 30,000-person Phase III test testing vaccine safety and efficacy, during a congressional hearing last month was criticized for poor representation of minorities in previous trials. Data showed that 89 percent of patients were white.
Modern President Stephen Hoge said the company is calling on local advisers and Black Church networks to sign up for a Phase III trial that is “representative of the people.”
Pfizer also began Phase III studies on a vaccine candidate last month, and AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected to begin theirs in the coming months. Managers at these companies have talked about the need to reach minority communities and their efforts to get in touch with local organizers. However, they have not offered detailed plans to include minorities in clinical trials that they conduct at record speed.
“Education should begin now,” said Macaya Douoguih, Head of Clinical Development at Janssen Vaccines, part of Johnson & Johnson. “I believe that the communities that are disproportionately affected may require more commitment and it is a long process that needs to start now so that they can even consider participating in clinical trials.”
Ensuring equal representation in clinical trials is important for gaining the trust of minority communities, Puckrein said. Otherwise, he warned, it could make these communities suspicious of being vaccinated immediately after the shots became available.
“The way that is translated into the minority community is that we should be guinea pigs to take this drug and see if we grow horns – and if we do not grow any horns, then we can give it to everyone else,” he said.
Other recent federal efforts to promote confidence in communities of color during the pandemic have fallen short. In one case, CDC research groups knocked on the doors of predominantly black Georgia residents, asking for blood tests with a little warning and raising the bar in the Tuskegee syphilis study conducted on African Americans for four decades.
“We really need to hear people’s own words, what do they think? What are their feelings about COVID-19 vaccination? Said Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We can not have an effective outreach and education campaign if all we are trying to do, so to speak, is to deliver science in a better way. It will not reduce it. “
Public health experts said that vaccination efforts during the H1N1 pandemic from a decade ago hold important lessons for coronavirus.