Asians ‘should take part in tri­als to en­sure vac­cine suits all groups’

EX­PERTS STRESS THE SIG­NIF­I­CANCE OF DIVER­SITY AMONG VOL­UN­TEERS

Eastern Eye (UK) - - News - By LAU­REN CODLING

BRI­TISH ASIANS have been urged to take part in vac­ci­na­tion tri­als to pro­tect against the coro­n­avirus, as data re­vealed fewer than five per cent of vol­un­teers were from the com­mu­nity.

The par­tic­i­pa­tion call comes as phase three clin­i­cal tri­als of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firm Janssen’s Covid-19 vac­cine be­gan across the UK on Mon­day (16). In­volv­ing 6,000 vol­un­teers across the coun­try, it will test the safety and ef­fec­tive­ness of a po­ten­tial Covid-19 vac­cine.

It is the third po­ten­tial vac­cine to en­ter clin­i­cal tri­als in the UK, along­side the Univer­sity of Ox­ford/As­traZeneca and US biotech com­pany No­vavax whose stud­ies are on­go­ing. The need for eth­nic mi­nor­ity vol­un­teers has been high­lighted in re­cent months, as it was re­ported Asians were un­der­rep­re­sented in clin­i­cal tri­als.

Data from the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Health Re­search (NIHR) said only 14,609 (4.35 per cent) of vol­un­teers were from Asian and Bri­tish Asian back­grounds.

Divya Chadha Manek, clin­i­cal tri­als work­stream lead at UK Vac­cines Task­force, said it was im­per­a­tive more eth­nic mi­nori­ties signed up, to en­sure vac­cines could be ef­fec­tive for as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tion is key,” Manek told East­ern Eye on Tues­day (17). “It’s re­ally im­por­tant that our tri­als are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple that we’re go­ing to vac­ci­nate.”

She added: “What I want is for the Asian com­mu­nity to re­ally start hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion – the only way we are go­ing to ad­dress it is by start­ing dis­cus­sions with fam­ily and friends to take it one step fur­ther”.

A num­ber of stud­ies, in­clud­ing a Pub­lic Health Eng­land re­port in June, have found that eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups are dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by Covid-19.

Not­ing the im­pact of coro­n­avirus on eth­nic groups, Dr Vanessa Apea, the black, Asian and mi­nor­ity eth­nic clin­i­cal cham­pion at NIHR Clin­i­cal Re­search Net­work North Thames, said the height­ened risks made it “even more im­por­tant” that the vac­cine worked for all com­mu­ni­ties.

“Only by do­ing this can we truly take con­trol of Covid, so we re­ally need peo­ple from black, Asian and eth­nic mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties to sign up to learn more and be part of re­search,” she said.

How­ever, Dr Apea ac­knowl­edged the vac­cine could gen­er­ate “anx­i­ety rooted in mis­trust” for some mem­bers of the BAME com­mu­nity. “This can lead to re­luc­tance in tak­ing part in a trial,” she ex­plained.

Manek echoed sim­i­lar con­cerns, not­ing there was an is­sue re­lat­ing to the Asian com­mu­nity be­ing mis­trust­ful of the re­search. For in­stance, she was aware of ru­mours re­lat­ing to the gov­ern­ment us­ing the vac­cine as a way to track move­ment.

“I have heard con­cerns that some in­di­vid­u­als (from the Asian com­mu­nity) don’t want to take part in the vac­cine trial, be­cause they be­lieve the gov­ern­ment are go­ing to in­ject a chip into them, so they can be tracked,” she ex­plained. “I can say, 100 per cent, hand on heart, that this is not hap­pen­ing”.

Of Asian ori­gin her­self, Manek ad­mit­ted some of her own fam­ily mem­bers would be happy to take the vac­cine once it was avail­able to the pub­lic – but had voiced re­luc­tance to take part in the study.

“I think peo­ple for­get we are tak­ing part in the study for our­selves, not for the next gen­er­a­tion,” she said, adding: “We need peo­ple to step up so that when we have enough ev­i­dence, we know the prod­uct is suit­able for peo­ple of eth­nic back­grounds. (Eth­nic mi­nori­ties) don’t want to be given a prod­uct that (they) later re­alise hasn’t been tested on peo­ple in eth­nic groups. That’s why eth­nic diver­sity is im­por­tant.”

The Janssen stud­ies will take place at 17 NIHR sites, in­clud­ing Lon­don, Le­ices­ter, Sh­effield and Manch­ester. Re­cruit­ment into the study will com­plete in March 2021, with the trial ex­pect­ing to last for one year.

For more in­for­ma­tion or to join the NHS Vac­cine Re­search Reg­istry, see: www.nhs.uk/ re­search­con­tact

TEST­ING TIMES: Janssen’s Covid-19 vac­cine is the third one to en­ter clin­i­cal tri­als in the UK; (inset be­low) Divya Chadha Manek

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