U.S. Vaccine Czar On Minority Skepticism: ‘Nobody’s Being Used As A Guinea Pig’

According to a recent poll, black Americans are skeptical of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Black Americans continue to stand out as less inclined to get vaccinated than other racial and ethnic groups: 42% would do so, compared with 63% of Hispanic and 61% of White adults,” the Pew Research survey released Thursday found. “English-speaking Asian Americans are even more likely to say they would definitely or probably get vaccinated (83%).

On Sunday, the Trump administration’s vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui addressed skepticism in the black community, saying “Nobody’s being used as a guinea pig.”

In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Tapper mentioned the poll, then said, “I want you to take a listen to 52-year-old Carmen Bailey from Cleveland, Ohio” before playing a clip.

“To me, it’s too early. We don’t know any kind of side effects from them. So, I just really feel like, at this point, we’re — people that’s going to take that vaccine is guinea pigs,” Bailey said.

“Now, this doesn’t — this kind of skepticism doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” Tapper said to Slaoui. “The U.S. has an ugly, racist history when it comes to science and medicine and black Americans. How specifically does Operation Warp Speed intend to address this skepticism, especially the disproportionate skepticism in the black community?”

“Well, it’s a very important and saddening situation that has been worrying us all the time,” Slaoui said. “And we work very, very hard with the [National Institutes of Health] leadership, with the surgeon general, with all the leaders that we could to engage the minority population, in particular, the African-Americans and the Latinx, to participate into the clinical trial, to understand the importance of participating through the trials, because that will be very important to helping us convey to the minority population the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines.”

“Nobody is being used as a guinea pig. Unfortunately, this virus is impacting the African-American population and the Hispanics two and four times more than it does to the Caucasian part of our country. And we have to stop that. It’s really very, very important that people take the time to listen to the data, listen to the people they trust that have some expertise. Please don’t make your opinion outside of having listened to the data and to experts you trust,” he said.

“When that happens, I feel confident you will agree to be immunized. And that can help save your life,” Slaoui said.

Three vaccines are currently in the works. Biotech firm Moderna on Nov. 30 moved to win emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna is the second pharmaceutical company to request an EUA after Pfizer filed their application on Nov. 20. Moderna said its data showed their vaccine was 94.1% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, just under Pfizer’s efficacy rate of 95%. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

A key advantage of Moderna’s vaccine is that it does not need sub-zero storage like Pfizer’s, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees.

A third vaccine is also in the pipeline. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Nov. 23 said their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective and the makers claims will be easier to distribute.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Dec. 2 voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the shots in the initial rollout — once federal regulators authorize use of a vaccine. The recommendation was approved CDC Director Robert Redfield, but governors will eventually have the final say on who gets the vaccine first.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet Dec. 17 to review data from the two companies.

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