More than 50% of cases of Covid-19 in the United States are African Americans or Latinos, yet they make up only 15% of participants in the first Phase III vaccine trial in the United States, co-developed by biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.
In fact, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins gave the trial a “C” grade for recruiting minorities.
“From the first week I saw the numbers, and they were not as encouraging as I would have liked,” Collins told CNN.
The vaccine could be delayed if the trials don’t recruit enough minorities. That’s why Huerta, a longtime public health advocate, volunteered for the Phase III trial.
“When you have a clinical trial, it’s extremely important for all the races and ethnicities to be represented because sometimes there are differences in toxicity and effectiveness of a medication or vaccine,” Huerta said.
“As a Latino I thought it was very important for me to participate.”
Huerta, who is a professor of medicine at George Washington University, was elected president of the American Cancer Society in 2007, becoming the first Latino president in its history.
He is also the founder and director of the Cancer Preventorium at the Washington Cancer Institute, and hosts several radio programs with RPP Noticias de Perú focusing on health care and more.
Why are Black and Latinos hardest hit?
There are a number of reasons why Black and Brown communities have higher risks for catching Covid-19 and having more severe reactions that can lead to hospitalization and death.
There are also structural factors, such as economic and housing policies; and social factors, such as essential worker employment status requiring in-person work, according to the CDC report.
Black leaders agree that it’s hard to recruit Black people into the vaccine trials.
“Please, especially African Americans and Latinos who are underrepresented in this study, consider it,” Huerta said. ” You are going to get your injection, you will participate, the study lasts for 25 months, and you will be helping yourself and the community.”
Half the study participants receive the real vaccine, and half get a placebo. Participants will track if they have symptoms or side effects for about two years.
In the meantime, Huerta has some advice.
Practicing one of those safety measures should not cause the others to be neglected, he added. All are necessary to win the fight against this deadly new disease.
CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Naomi Thomas contributed to this story.