A team of research professionals from the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has shown that equitable involvement in clinical vaccine trials through strong community engagement can have a powerful impact on the health of underrepresented communities.
Recent data underscores the lack of black, indigenous and colored communities (BIPOC) in vaccine clinical trials. The new study published in the journal PLUS ONE, discusses the need for BIPOC communities’ commitment to infectious disease research as a critical component in efforts to increase vaccine confidence, acceptance and acceptance of future approved products.
“There has been discourse that said it is challenging and there are too many barriers to working with BIPOC communities,” said Michele Andrasik, PhD, senior researcher at Fred Hutch and lead author of the study. “We hope this shows that these are surmountable barriers and that it is possible to overcome them through long-term investment in community relationships and by building trustworthy reputations as researchers and institutions.”
The study analyzed demographics and enrollment data in Phase III trials of COVID-19 vaccine efficacy to inform future efforts to ensure inclusive participation. In the four US government-funded clinical trials of COVID-19 for which data are available, 47% of participants in CoVPN locations in the US were BIPOC. White enrollment outperformed BIPOC attendees enrollment throughout the accumulation period, requiring the implementation of strategies to increase diverse and inclusive enrollment. The studies that opened later benefited significantly from increased community engagement efforts and larger and more diverse volunteer registry entries.
Four methods of interacting with BIPOC communities were:
- Raising the awareness and knowledge of the community to address and correct misperceptions, misinformation and myths.
- Partnerships with social service providers, advocacy organizations, medical and medical professional associations, media, academic institutions, local / state / national government partners and religious organizations.
- Leverage the breadth of established relationships from the history of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network’s successful engagement in faith communities to reach a wide audience through the CoVPN Faith Initiative. (Andrasik is also director of social and behavioral science and community engagement for the network.)
- Integration of in-language and in-culture marketing into an outreach strategy that focuses on Latino / a / Hispanic and Black / African American communities.
The results “show that equitable involvement of the BIPOC communities is possible,” said Andrasik. “We know this is necessary given the long-standing social, structural and economic inequalities that BIPOC communities face. We need to invest in connecting with the community and ensure meaningful community involvement at every step of the research. “
Edited by Gary Cramer