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Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) is fighting to make sure vaccine trials are not racially biased. Photo: grist.org
Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) is fighting to make sure vaccine trials are not racially biased. Photo: grist.org

Rep. Nanette Barragán demands racially diverse COVID-19 vaccine trials

The move comes after reports of a vaccine trial lacking in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous participants.

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May 27th, 2022

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By now it is well known that the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Latinx communities the hardest, but even then so, it appears those developing a vaccine find that information negligible.

According to healthcare and pharmaceutical experts, the first U.S. phase three trial of a coronavirus vaccine by Biotech Moderna has failed to include a diverse body of participants, meaning the trial thus far is not reflective of an accurate United States. 

Moderna’s phase three trial lacked Black, Latinx, and Indigenous participants. In a statement released Friday, the company reported that, “Black or African American, Latinx, American Indian, and Alaska Native individuals” made up just 18% of participants.

This is a percentage far lower than what is happening in the real world. According to the CDC, 22% of cases were found among Black patients, who make-up 13% of the total U.S. population. For Latinx persons, that number is 33%, compared to constituting only 18% of the U.S. population. 

And that’s just one study. 

One conducted by Johns Hopkins Health Systems found that out of over 37,000 people tested, the positive rate for Latinx persons was 42.6% — significantly higher than all other demographics. 

With such discrepancies between real-life and the vaccine trial pool, something must be done. COVID-19 has altered all of our lives, but not on the same scale across the board.

Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) knows this. 

“The only way to defeat COVID-19 is to guarantee that every American has access to the full range of treatments & that they are proven to be safe & effective,” Barragán wrote on Twitter. 

“That’s why I wrote a letter to the [National Institutes of Health] urging vaccine trials in racially diverse communities,” she continued.
 

“Due to the urgent nature of this pandemic, it is vitally important that we develop effective treatments and vaccines to minimize the virus’ impact and ultimately eradicate it,” Barragán wrote in her letter.

“While I am encouraged about the progress of vaccine development of COVID-19, I am concerned that those living in underserved communities, especially communities of color like mine, will not be able to easily participate in these trials,” she continued. 

Barragán’s district is the 44th Congressional District in California. It’s 90% Latinx and Black, and has experienced disproportionate rates in both cases and deaths from COVID-19, compared to predominantly white areas of Los Angeles County.

For Barragán, this issue is personal. As a Latina and a congresswoman, she wants these trials to reflect her community, and for companies like Biotech Moderna to consider testing a group that is reflective of the crisis at hand.

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