JAMA Network Open published an analysis of 230 U.S.-based vaccine trials conducted from July 2011 through June 2020.1 Most analyzed trials did not report demographics for the nearly 220,000 total participants, but those that did had underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities. Notably, white people accounted for roughly 78% of all participants, but Black/African Americans accounted only for 11%, Hispanics/Latinos for 12%, and American Indians/Alaska Natives for just 0.4%. The COVID-19 pandemic showed why the lack of representation in vaccine clinical research is a pressing issue. According to Clinical Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that African Americans made up 21.8% and Latinx people made up 33.8% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., even though these groups only constitute 13% and 18% of the country’s total population, respectively.2
The data from both reports indicate we are underprepared and underequipped to protect traditionally underserved swaths of the population from the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases. However, the problem of diversity in vaccine research isn’t just about making sure vaccines are safe and effective for people of all races and ethnicities.