COVID-19 does not see color but America does. America puts fewer resources into communities of color. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic is much worse for communities of color. Across Los Angeles and across the nation. Higher positivity rates, higher hospitalization rates, and higher death rates have hit local communities of color hard. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “Help is really on the way.” Dr. Fauci was talking about early findings for a COVID-19 vaccine. Right now, there are several vaccine studies. We may end up with more than one COVID-19 vaccine, just like we have many medications for diabetes or cancer.
UCLA Health and the Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center are participating in vaccine studies. One is the Oxford University – AstraZeneca COVID-19 study. It’s what we call a phase 3 trial. If a study is a success in its phase 3 trial, it can get approval to be used. The goal is to enroll at least 500 Los Angeles residents in this trial.
The trial will test the efficacy of the vaccine. This study is also making sure it works for communities who need it most. This includes people of color, the elderly, and those with high-risk medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cancer, among others. These conditions are more common in our communities. Essential workers and health care workers are also at high risk for contracting the virus. People of color are more likely to be essential workers. Having a diverse group of people in the study is important; it helps to ensure the vaccine works for everyone.
This phase 3 trial began after phase 1 and 2 trials worked. They showed the vaccine was safe in a small number of people; usually, just a few hundred and they figured out the best dose. The phase 3 trial studies the vaccine in many more people. The study will include over 30,000 people in the U.S. The vaccine causes your body’s immune system to recognize and fight COVID-19. It will not contain the virus that causes COVID-19. This means you cannot be exposed to the COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Many health research studies have few examples of people from participating communities of color participate. This is due to many reasons; mistreatment by researchers and health systems has led to mistrust. Some people do not trust the pharmaceutical industry. Some may not have the time to spend to be in a research study. Getting to a study site may not be easy or parking may be hard, etc.
UCLA Health and the Lundquist Institute are working hard to address these issues, including compensating participants for their time in the trial and, if needed, organizing transportation to and from trial sites. Since COVID-19 is affecting our communities even more; our participation is even more vital to help our communities. Until a vaccine or other treatment is found to work, wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping physical distancing is the best way to prevent getting COVID-19.
Interested in being in the trial? To qualify for the trial, you must: 1 – have never tested positive for COVID-19. 2 – be at increased risk for getting infected; for example, essential workers, those who cannot stay home. 3 – be at-risk for developing the symptomatic disease if you do become infected; namely those who are older than 55 or have other medical conditions. 4 – be from a community most affected by COVID-19. In Los Angeles, this includes the African American, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities.
Working together with communities is critical to provide reliable, clear information about the COVID-19 vaccine research. UCLA and the Lundquist Institute physicians and researchers’ job is to help find a vaccine that is safe and effective. And that means safe and effective for all communities. To do this we need all communities to participate in this important COVID-19 vaccine trial. UCLA and Lundquist welcome all interested participants to sign-up now.
To learn more or to volunteer for the trial, please visit www.helpstopcovid.la
Co-Writers for this article: Dr. Arleen F. Brown, MD, PhD Professor of Medicine UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research; Keith Norris, MD, PhD Professor of Medicine UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research; D’Ann Morris, MPA Project Director-Community Outreach-UCLA UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research