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Communities of color prioritized in new UC Davis COVID vaccine clinical trials


Researchers with UC Davis Health are now looking for people to participate in clinical trials for the new Novavax vaccine. Groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are being prioritized. “If the goal is to protect the most vulnerable populations first, the communities disproportionately affected need to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Stuart Cohen, who is running the upcoming study. The trials require volunteers of all backgrounds, but people in high-risk groups, including Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans, are asked to participate.”We are confident the vaccine will work,” said Dr. Cohen. “The only guarantees we give is we make it as safe as we possibly make it, we answer any question the patient has, and the patient can withdraw anytime they see fit.”Meanwhile, local Latino leaders are continuing to work on media and grassroots education campaigns on COVID safety and vaccination. “I’m going to encourage everyone in the Latino community to participate, in every aspect, including the trials, for addressing this pandemic,” said Sacramento city councilman Eric Guerra. “The most important thing is we have to give confidence that testing, masks, and the vaccines are tools to help us get through the pandemic.”Guerra added there continues to be some reluctance in the Latino community on getting vaccinated, due to some distrust of government agencies. “This is where we are relying heavily on health partners and community members to make sure we get the accurate information out to the community,” he said. “We’re working with the Department of Public Health to make sure we are using valid data through focus groups about what messages actually penetrate and connect with our community.”The cultural sensitivities surrounding the situation are not lost on researchers at UC Davis.”We all understand the history of certain under-represented populations being taken advantage of and being harmed by clinical trials,” acknowledged Dr. Cohen. “You have to build the trust back up.” Dr. Cohen emphasized that people from all backgrounds will be selected for the trial, and not just high-risk groups. He added the vaccine was also not developed overnight. “Vaccines in the coronavirus class were worked on in 2003 when…SARS was seen in Asia and Canada. And people were working on coronavirus vaccines back then,” said Cohen. “The technology and the targets we are shooting the vaccine at, those have been known for 15 years. It’s not new.”The impact of COVID-19 also continues to be profound on Native Americans, the group most affected by the disease, according to the CDC. Public health advocates are championing awareness and transparency. “There’s a lot of conversation around the vaccine, a lot of fear in general, around vaccines, particularly this vaccine, that became such a huge piece of a political campaign in this last election,” said Virginia Hedrick of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health. “Having a local trial on the Novavax gives us a chance to talk about that these vaccines are different, how they are administered, and the science.”The California Native American community is now mourning the loss of leader Marshall McKay, who served under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, and sat on the board of Cache Creek Casino Resorts. McKay died of COVID-19 in late December.People interested in participating in the UC Davis Health Novavax trials can fill out the interest survey here.

Researchers with UC Davis Health are now looking for people to participate in clinical trials for the new Novavax vaccine. Groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are being prioritized.

“If the goal is to protect the most vulnerable populations first, the communities disproportionately affected need to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Stuart Cohen, who is running the upcoming study.

The trials require volunteers of all backgrounds, but people in high-risk groups, including Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans, are asked to participate.

“We are confident the vaccine will work,” said Dr. Cohen. “The only guarantees we give [trial participants] is we make it as safe as we possibly make it, we answer any question the patient has, and the patient can withdraw anytime they see fit.”

Meanwhile, local Latino leaders are continuing to work on media and grassroots education campaigns on COVID safety and vaccination.

“I’m going to encourage everyone in the Latino community to participate, in every aspect, including the trials, for addressing this pandemic,” said Sacramento city councilman Eric Guerra. “The most important thing is we have to give confidence that testing, masks, and the vaccines are tools to help us get through the pandemic.”

Guerra added there continues to be some reluctance in the Latino community on getting vaccinated, due to some distrust of government agencies.

“This is where we are relying heavily on health partners and community members to make sure we get the accurate information out to the community,” he said. “We’re working with the Department of Public Health to make sure we are using valid data through focus groups about what messages actually penetrate and connect with our community.”

The cultural sensitivities surrounding the situation are not lost on researchers at UC Davis.

“We all understand the history of certain under-represented populations being taken advantage of and being harmed by clinical trials,” acknowledged Dr. Cohen. “You have to build the trust back up.”

Dr. Cohen emphasized that people from all backgrounds will be selected for the trial, and not just high-risk groups. He added the vaccine was also not developed overnight.

“Vaccines in the coronavirus class were worked on in 2003 when…SARS was seen in Asia and Canada. And people were working on coronavirus vaccines back then,” said Cohen. “The technology and the targets we are shooting the vaccine at, those have been known for 15 years. It’s not new.”

The impact of COVID-19 also continues to be profound on Native Americans, the group most affected by the disease, according to the CDC. Public health advocates are championing awareness and transparency.

“There’s a lot of conversation around the vaccine, a lot of fear in general, around vaccines, particularly this vaccine, that became such a huge piece of a political campaign in this last election,” said Virginia Hedrick of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health. “Having a local trial on the Novavax gives us a chance to talk about that these vaccines are different, how they are administered, and the science.”

The California Native American community is now mourning the loss of leader Marshall McKay, who served under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, and sat on the board of Cache Creek Casino Resorts. McKay died of COVID-19 in late December.

People interested in participating in the UC Davis Health Novavax trials can fill out the interest survey here.



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