CHICAGO (Reuters) – Private contractors hired by Moderna Inc to recruit volunteers for its coronavirus vaccine trial failed to enroll enough Black, Latino and Native American participants to determine how well the vaccine works in these populations, company executives and vaccine researchers told Reuters.
To make up for the shortfall, Moderna slowed enrollment of its late-stage trial and instructed research centers to focus on increasing participation among minority volunteers, the company said. The effort is being bolstered by academic researchers who have longstanding relationships with organizations in Black and other minority communities.
Five investigators working on the Moderna trial said in interviews that commercial site investigators quickly filled a large portion of the 30,000-person study with mostly white volunteers.
But COVID-19 infects Blacks in the United States at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, and they are twice as likely to die from the virus, according to a report by the National Urban League and other studies.
And communities of color count prominently among healthcare workers and populations at high risk of COVID-19 complications, making them among the first likely to be eligible for a new vaccine, experts said.
Dr. Paul Evans, chief executive of Velocity Clinical Research in Durham, North Carolina, whose company was hired to test the Moderna vaccine at five sites, said efforts to enroll volunteers from diverse backgrounds to provide proper population balance is “notoriously difficult” in any clinical trial.
“If there’s a problem with recruiting minorities, and there is, you can’t fix that overnight,” he said.
Black Americans made up only about 7% of the trial as of Sept. 17. That should be