COVID-19 clinical trials seeking diverse enrollment

Vaccine trials for COVID-19 are underway across the country, but national agencies are calling for more people to sign up -- specifically minorities.

There is a national push to enroll more diverse groups in the vaccine trials, including ads launched by the COVID-19 Prevention Network. The clinical trials are currently in Phase 3, which means the vaccine is now being tested in tens of thousands of people to ensure it’s safe and effective.

In Florida, researchers at the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research said the response has been strong.

“I’ve never seen this kind of response to any study we’ve done before,” said Dr. Michael Koren, the medical director for the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research and CEO of Encore Research Group. “We’re involved with both of the mRNA platform studies with Pfizer and Moderna, and here in north Florida, we’ve been able to put in over 500 patients in the study.”

But to make sure the vaccine will work for everyone, there has to be diversity. Dr. Koren said they have to make sure there are no genetic differences in how different groups of people respond to the vaccine.

“There’s been a definite need to have more people from underrepresented groups getting into the coronavirus trials,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed, a professor and dean at USF Health’s Taneja College of Pharmacy.

Dr. Sneed said researchers are battling a history of mistrust of doctors and reluctance toward experimental medicine. And with Latinx, American Indian, Asian and Black communities suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, Sneed said it’s important to know the vaccine will work.

“We want to make sure that whatever we come up with, whatever vaccine is developed will be safe and effective for each one of those particular groups, and the only way we truly know that is through the clinical trial process,” said Sneed.

So as the national push continues for more diverse enrollment, clinical researchers in Florida tell us they are doing their part too.

“We’ve been working very hard on that. In fact, one of my medical school classmates who’s African American came into town to help me with that effort,” said Koren. “I think we’ve made some good progress. So we’ve had a pretty good representation here in north Florida with African American patients and Latino patients, and we’re continually working on that.”

The Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research is planning to open up a vaccine site in Inverness, so Dr. Koren said they are looking for more volunteers for the trials, especially minorities as well as people in high-exposure and high-medical risk groups. If you’re interested in learning more, visit

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LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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