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A community-partnered approach for diversity in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

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Communities of color have faced disproportionate morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, coupled with historical underrepresentation in US clinical trials, creating challenges for equitable participation in developing and testing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.


To increase diversity, including racial and ethnic representation, in local Los Angeles County NIH-sponsored Phase 3 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine clinical trials, we used deliberative community engagement approaches to form a Community Consultant Panel (CCP) that partnered with trial research teams. Thirteen members were recruited, including expertise from essential workers, community-based and faith-based organizations, or leaders from racial and ethnic minority communities.


Working closely with local investigators for the vaccine studies, the CCP provided critical insight on best practices for community trust building, clinical trial participation, and reliable information dissemination regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Modifying recruitment, outreach, and trial protocols led to majority-minority participants (55%-78%) in each of the three vaccine clinical trials. CCP's input led to cultural tailoring of recruitment materials, changes in recruitment messaging, and supportive services to improve trial accessibility and acceptability (transportation, protocols for cultural competency, and support linkages to care in case of an adverse event). Barriers to clinical trial participation unable to be resolved included childcare, requests for after-hours appointment availability, and mobile locations for trial visits.


Using deliberative community engagement can provide critical and timely insight into the community-centered barriers to COVID-19 vaccine trial participation, including addressing social determinants of health, trust, clinical trial literacy, structural barriers, and identifying trusted messenger and reliable sources of information.

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