Two HBCU presidents participate in Kovid-19 vaccine trials to highlight the importance of black participation

Dillard University President Walter Kimbrose and Xavier University’s Reynold Verrett sent letters to their university communities earlier this month stating that they had decided to participate in the third phase of the vaccine development by Pfizer.

“Overcoming the virus will require the availability of effective vaccines for all people in our communities, especially our black and brown neighbors,” he wrote.

“It is extremely important that a significant number of black and brown subjects participate,” he wrote, “so that the effectiveness of these vaccines is understood in the many diverse populations that comprise these United States.”

Health experts have emphasized the importance of a diverse pool of volunteers in the Kovid-19 vaccine trials, especially because the epidemic has adversely affected communities of color.

“I just kept looking at all the articles that indicated that we don’t have good representation,” Kimbrose told CNN. “People are making a case that you have no idea if it works for all populations if you don’t have a strong sample.”

But the reaction was largely negative, he said, with some comparing him to “lab rats”.

“I think heavy people are skeptical,” he said.

He also pointed to mistrust among some African Americans stemming from the Tuskegee Syphilis study. Critics on social media also cited the study, more commonly known as the Tuskegee experiment.
In the early 1930s, it included doctors from the US Public Health Service who deliberately untreated black people for syphilis so that they could study the course of infection. They did this despite the fact that penicillin emerged as a viable and effective treatment during the study.

Kimbruz and Verrett acknowledged Tuskegee and other “unethical examples of medical research” in their letter – examples that had reduced “trust in health providers and carers” among African Americans.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that Black Americans face a greater risk of Kovid-19, they are more hesitant to trust medical experts and sign up for a potential vaccine.

In an interview earlier this month on SiriusXM, Drs. Anthony Fauci stressed that suspicion from minority communities needs to be met with transparency. He also cited Tuskegee as a major cause of mistrust.

“The track record of how government and medical experimenters have dealt with the African American community is nothing to be proud of,” he said.

‘I fully understand fear’

Kimbroughs and Verrett are not alone. Don Baker, a black news anchor at CNN’s affiliated WTOC in Sawan, Georgia, said she was involved in a trial for a modern vaccine candidate, with skeptics also using the Tuskegee experiment.

One said that Baker had lost his mind.

“I can’t fight (history). I completely understand the fear,” Baker told CNN’s Poppy Harlowe. But Baker trusted his doctor of more than 30 years who asked him to attend.

“For me it was a great opportunity to be a part of the solution,” she said. “So I really think what needs to happen, before we get into these vaccine studies, some effort needs to be made with the minority community to really explain and accept, there is a problem and there What is happening.”

Verrett acknowledged that Tuskegee and “many other similar incidents” needed to be accepted. But “there are people who like themselves around the table,” he said, who are asking questions and taking tests.

Systemic racism exists in the US, he told CNN’s Briana Keylor.

“But at the same time, we should not stop making sure that we have something that is necessary to save the lives of our people, especially given that African Americans and other people of color are dying and covid Suffer from -19. At disproportionate rates, “said Verrett.

Kimbrose said some claim that his letter was a “mandate” when they only wanted their communities to “think about it.”

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“But it’s hard to tell anyone that you’re not ready to do something about yourself,” he said.

Kimbrose made his first appointment with the researchers on 25 August. They had to complete an orientation explaining the test and each step. He was also given a Kovid-19 test using nasal inflammation. He was then given an injection – but he does not know whether he received the vaccine candidate or the placebo.

Otherwise, once a week an app on Kimbrose’s phone asks him to complete a survey, in which he realizes if he has any symptoms. He went back for a second injection this week, and would have to return periodically.

But like Baker, Kimbrot is happily doing his part.

“I’m just tired of all this,” he said of the epidemic. “I’m ready to be somewhat normal and a vaccine will be part of that.”