Viewpoint: Why minority groups should be over-represented in COVID-19 vaccine trials

vax diversity
Credit: Lynne Shallcross/KHN/Getty Images

BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. have publicly said they’re pushing to enroll a more diverse group of participants in the pivotal Phase 3 trials of their coronavirus vaccine candidates. But [emergency room physician Esther] 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, Native Americans are 2.8 times more likely to contract the virus and 5.3 more times likely to be hospitalized; Black Americans are 4.7 more times likely to be hospitalized and 2.1 times more likely to die; and Hispanic people in the U.S. are 2.8 times more likely to contract the virus and 4.6 times more likely to end up in the hospital.

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“Balanced representation should be disproportionate representation of black and brown people, because they’re more affected by the disease,” she said.

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It’s not totally clear why COVID-19 has had an uneven impact on people of color 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.

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