Health & Fit Two HBCU presidents joined Covid-19 vaccine trials to highlight the importance of Black participation
The global risk of “vaccine nationalism”
A Covid-19 outbreak in one country is a threat to all. What happens if the vaccine race is every nation for itself?The United Kingdom, along with its American and Canadian counterparts, said it was “95 percent sure” that hackers tied to Russian intelligence tried to probe their drug companies and research groups. US officials told the New York Times that Russia didn’t seem to be sabotaging efforts to find a vaccine. Instead, the Russians wanted to pilfer the research, to help themselves speed up their vaccine development.
When the presidents of two historically Black colleges announced they were participating in a Covid-19 vaccine trial, they hoped to encourage other African Americans to do the same to ensure that an eventual vaccine has been tested on -- and is effective for -- people of color.
Instead, they've been met with widespread skepticism from peopleof unethical medical experiments on Black people.
Why it’s still unlikely we’ll have a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day
Trump wants a vaccine before November, but his top advisors say that’s near impossible.“The week before last, the head of the Centers for Disease Control Dr. Redfield said it would be summer before the vaccine would become generally available to the public. You said that he was confused and mistaken,” Wallace said.
Presidents Walter Kimbrough of Dillard University and Reynold Verret of Xavier University sent letters to their university communities earlier this month saying they decided to participate in a Phase 3 trial of a vaccine in development by Pfizer.
"Overcoming the virus will require the availability of vaccines effective for all peoples in our communities, especially our black and brown neighbors,".
"It is of the utmost importance that a significant number of black and brown subjects participate," they wrote, "so that the effectiveness of these vaccines be understood across the many diverse populations that comprise these United States."
A Vaccine Reality Check
So much hope is riding on a breakthrough, but a vaccine is only the beginning of the end.Nearly five months into the pandemic, all hopes of extinguishing COVID-19 are riding on a still-hypothetical vaccine. And so a refrain has caught on: We might have to stay home—until we have a vaccine. Close schools—until we have a vaccine. Wear masks—but only until we have a vaccine. During these months of misery, this mantra has offered a small glimmer of hope. Normal life is on the other side, and we just have to wait—until we have a vaccine.
Health experts have stressed the importance of a diverse pool of volunteers in Covid-19 vaccine trials, especially because the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
"I just kept seeing all of the articles that indicated we don't have good representation," Kimbrough told CNN. "People are making the case that you don't know if it works for all populations if you don't have a robust sample."
But the response has been largely negative, he said, with some people comparing him to a "lab rat."
"I think overwhelmingly people are skeptical," he said.
He pointed to distrust among some African Americans stemming from the. Critics on social media also cited the study, commonly known as the Tuskegee Experiment.
Beginning in the 1930s, it ideliberately leaving Black men untreated for syphilis so they could study the course of the infection. They did this despite the fact that penicillin emerged during the course of the study as a viable and effective treatment.
Why it’s unlikely we’ll have a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day
Even the appearance of political pressure could hurt public confidence in a coronavirus vaccine.The Food and Drug Administration approving a vaccine by then would certainly be a monumental October surprise, one that could help speed the pandemic’s end and may give Trump a much-needed boost.
Kimbrough and Verret acknowledged Tuskegee and other "unethical examples of medical research" in their letter -- instances that had undermined "trust in health providers and caretakers" among African Americans.
that while Black Americans face higher risks from Covid-19, they're more hesitant to trust medical experts and sign up for a potential vaccine.
In an interview on SiriusXM earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed that skepticism from minority communities needed to be met with transparency. He also cited Tuskegee as a big reason for the distrust.
"The track record of how government and medical experimenters have treated the African American community is not something to be proud of," he said.
'I completely understand the fear'
Kimbrough and Verret are not alone. When Dawn Baker, a Black news anchor at CNN affiliate WTOC in Savannah, Georgia,, skeptics also brought up the Tuskegee experiment.
One said Baker had "lost her mind."
Doctors Break Down the Long Road Ahead to Getting a Viable COVID-19 Vaccine
Be prepared for a long wait.
"I can't fight (the history). I completely understand the fear,". But Baker trusted her doctor of more than 30 years who asked her to participate.
"To me it was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the solution," she said. "So I just really feel that what needs to happen is, before we get into these vaccine studies, there needs to be some effort made with the minority community to actually explain and acknowledge there is a problem and what's going on there."
Verret agreed that Tuskegee and "many other similar events" needed to be acknowledged. But there are "people like myself around the table," he said, who are asking questions and vetting the trials.
Systemic racism exists in the US, he told CNN's Brianna Keilar.
"But at the same time, that should not preclude us from making sure that we have access to something that is necessary to save the lives of our people, especially given that African Americans and other people of color are dying and suffering from Covid-19 at disproportionate rates," Verret said.
Kimbrough said some backlash has stemmed from claims that their letter was a "mandate," when they only wanted their communities to "just think about it."
"But it's hard to tell somebody to think about something you're not willing to do yourself," he said.
Kimbrough had his first appointment with researchers on August 25. He had to complete an orientation explaining the trial and each step. He was also given a Covid-19 test using a nasal swab. Then he was given an injection -- but he doesn't know if he received the vaccine candidate or a placebo.
Otherwise, once a week an app on Kimbrough's phone asks him to complete a survey, detailing how he feels and whether he as any symptoms. He went back for a second injection this week, and will have to go back periodically.
But like Baker, Kimbrough is glad to be doing his part.
"I'm just tired of all this," he said of the pandemic. "I'm ready to get back to some sense of normalcy and a vaccine will be part of that."
We Will Not Have a Vaccine by November .
No matter what the president says, the timeline is not possible.This is, in Trump Land, what passes for a conservative estimate. “We think we can probably have it sometime during the month of October,” the president told reporters earlier this month. Trump went as far as to call Redfield’s timeline “incorrect information, because a vaccine would really be ready sooner: “We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced, and it could be announced in October. It could be announced a little bit after October.