Early coronavirus drug trials tested vaccines mostly on White people; next phase aims for diversity

Ref: CNBC
  • The COVID-19 Prevention Network, formed by the National Institutes of Health, is prioritising enrolling people at highest risk of the disease, including those with underlying health issues, the elderly, essential workers as well as the Native American, Latino and Black communities, into the late-stage clinical trials, CNBC reported Friday.

  • "We really need to be incredibly mindful of reaching out to those communities who are hardest hit to ensure that we are getting individuals who are at heightened risk," said Michele Andrasik, director of community engagement for the COVID-19 Prevention Network, adding that they group is building on work done on HIV, which has "vast" similarities with COVID-19.

  • Since the network's website link for people to volunteer for the clinical trials was posted on July 8, more than 150,000 people have expressed interest, she said, but added that it was not yet known how many of those people come from the priority groups.

  • In Moderna's trial, 40 of 45 participants were White, while Oxford University researchers noted the findings of their initial trial with AstraZeneca "are not easily generalisable, as this is a first-in-human study of fairly young and healthy volunteers, the majority of whom were White."

  • "I'm not worried about being able to recruit people into these trials; I’m worried ... about recruiting the right people," Moderna chief medical officer Tal Zaks has said, adding that "if the diversity isn't representative, we will stop enrolling at those sites ... and we will preferentially enrol at places that are able to reach out to those populations."

  • A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca, which is partnered with Oxford University on its COVID-19 vaccine, said larger clinical trials will include participants "drawn from diverse populations," while Pfizer and BioNTech made a similar comment about their early study population and plans for Phase III trials.