SEATTLE – October 19, 2021 – A team of research experts from COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), headquartered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, demonstrated that through strong community engagement, equitable inclusion in vaccine clinical trials can have a powerful impact on the health of under-represented communities.
Recent data highlights the absence of Black, Indigenous and Colored (BIPOC) communities in clinical vaccine trials. The new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, discusses the need for engagement of BIPOC communities in infectious disease research as an essential component of efforts to increase confidence, acceptability and uptake of future approved products in vaccines.
“There has been a speech declaring that it is difficult and that there are too many barriers to engaging with BIPOC communities,” said Dr Michele Andrasik, senior scientist at Fred Hutch and lead author of the ‘study. “We hope this shows that these are surmountable obstacles and can be overcome through long-term investments in relationships within the community and by building a reputation for reliability as a researchers and institutions. “
The study analyzed demographics and recruitment data in the Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine efficacy trials to inform future efforts to ensure inclusive participation. Of the four U.S. government-funded COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials for which data is available, 47% of participants enrolled on CoVPN sites in the United States were BIPOC. White enrollment exceeded BIPOC participant enrollment throughout the accumulation period, requiring the implementation of strategies to increase diverse and inclusive enrollment. Trials that will open later have benefited greatly from strengthened community engagement efforts and more and more diverse volunteer registries.
“Misinformation and mistrust of science are significant barriers to participation in research,” said Dr George Mensah, director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science (CTRIS) at National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Institutes of Health (NIH) and one of the study authors. “This study has shown us that if you take the time to engage communities and use promising practices to combat disinformation and mistrust, you can be successful in increasing the participation of the BIPOC community in clinical research.”
Four methods for engaging with BIPOC communities included:
Increasing community awareness and knowledge to address and correct misperceptions, misinformation and myths required the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches and collaboration with partners such as the NIH Alliance for Community Engagement (CEAL) against the disparities linked to COVID-19.
Work in partnership with institutions and organizations, such as social service providers, advocacy organizations, associations of physicians and health professionals, media, academic institutions, local / state government partners / national and faith-based organizations, especially those serving BIPOC communities with which long-standing relationships of trust have been established.
Building on the breadth of relationships established from the history of successful engagement of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) in faith communities, the CoVPN Faith Initiative has established a Faith Advisory Board to provide guidance and direction for community engagement efforts with faith-based groups, and to implement a national, faith-based CoVPN education program that uses anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and other principles to ensure that activities and messages reach a large audience.
· By integrating linguistic and cultural marketing into the outreach strategy, the CoVPN launched a multiplatform campaign focused on the Latin / A / Hispanic and Black / African American communities. The campaign, “Help End the Uncertainty”, was developed from public information gathered through consumer research with priority audiences and generated nearly 600,000 registrations of volunteers in the study registry. CoVPN.
“These results show that an equitable inclusion of BIPOC communities is possible. We know this is necessary given the long-standing social, structural and economic inequalities that BIPOC communities face, ”said Andrasik. “We need to invest in connecting with the community and ensuring meaningful community participation at every stage of the research. “
About the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN)
The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the United States National Institutes of Health to respond to the global pandemic. Through CoVPN, NIAID is leveraging the infectious disease expertise of its existing research networks and global partners to address the urgent need for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and antibodies. CoVPN will work to develop and conduct studies to ensure rapid and in-depth evaluation of vaccines and antibodies for the prevention of COVID-19. The CoVPN is headquartered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
About Fred Hutch
At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel Laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists are researching new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV / AIDS and other deadly diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. Seattle-based, independent, nonprofit research institute, Fred Hutch is home to the nation’s premier cancer prevention research program, as well as the Women’s Health Initiative’s Clinical Coordinating Center and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and from the COVID-19 Prevention Network.