US Vaccine Czar Addressed Skepticism Surrounding the Vaccine

"Covid-19 vaccine and syringe on calendar" (CC BY 2.0) by Jernej Furman

Black Americans are skeptical about having a coronavirus vaccine, according to a recent poll. 

On Thursday, the Pew Research survey found that Black Americans continue to stand out as less willing to vaccinate than other ethnic and racial groups. According to the study, 42% of Black Americans are inclined to get the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 61% of White adults and 63% Hispanic. Meanwhile, Asian Americans are even more willing to get vaccinated with 83%.

On Sunday, Moncef Slaoui, the Trump administration’s vaccine Czar, addressed the skepticism about the vaccine by saying, “Nobody’s being used as a guinea pig.”

In an interview with CNN, news anchor Jake Tapper mentioned the poll conducted by Pew Research and then played a clip of Carmen Bailey, a 52-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio. 

In the clip, Bailey said, “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 are going to take that vaccine is guinea pigs.”

Tapper then said to Slaoui, “Now, this doesn’t — this kind of skepticism doesn’t occur in a vacuum.” He added that the United States has an ugly racist history when it comes to medicine, science, and black Americans. Tapper then asked Slaoui how does Operation Warp Speed intend to address this kind of skepticism, particularly to the disproportionate skepticism in the black community. 

Slaoui said, “Well, it’s a very important and saddening situation that has been worrying us all the time.” He continued by saying that he, together with the National Institutes of Leadership, is working very hard. All the leaders have to engage in the minority population, particularly the African Americans and the Latin nationals.

“White House Coronavirus Update Briefing” (public domain) by The White House

Slaoui also added that they also aim to engage with the minority population and help them understand the importance of participating through the clinical trials because it is essential in helping them convey to the minority population the efficacy and safety of the coronavirus vaccines. 

He said, “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.” 

Slaoui, a researcher and former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines, also stated that it is essential for people to take time and listen to the data. It is also vital that people listen to people they trust who have some expertise in this field. The researcher then asked the public, “Please don’t make your opinion outside of having listened to the data and to experts you trust.”

Currently, three vaccines are in the works. On November 30, Biotech firm Moderna moved to win emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for its experimental coronavirus vaccine. 

Moderna filed their application on November 20 and is the second pharmaceutical company to request a EUA. Moderna said that their data showed that the vaccine is 94.15 effective and is already in its late-stage of the clinical trial. Moderna vaccine was produced in connection with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. 

One of the key advantages of the Moderna vaccine is that it does not have to be in sub-zero storage, unlike Pfizer, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees. Pfizer stated that the efficacy rate of their vaccine is 95%. 

A third COVID-19 vaccine is also in the pipeline. On November 23, AstraZeneca, together with Oxford University, said that their jointly created coronavirus vaccine has proven to be 90% effective. The makers claim that it is easier to distribute than other vaccines.

On December 2, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of care facilities will be prioritized and will be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine after federal regulators already authorized its use. 

Said recommendation was approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. However, governors will have the last say on who gets the vaccine first. Meanwhile, the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee will review data from the two pharmaceutical companies on December 17.