Do the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines include people from the most affected groups?
While vaccines work the same in people of different races or ethnicities, it is important to make sure vaccines are tested in diverse population groups before they are released. The phase 3 clinical trials conducted by Pfizer and Moderna included significant numbers of participants from the population groups most at risk for COVID-19.
In Pfizer’s U.S. trial, 13.1 percent of participants are Hispanic/Latinx, 10.1 percent are Black, 5.5 percent are Asian American, and 1 percent are Native American. About 45 percent of U.S. participants are 56-85 years of age.
For comparison, in the most recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.4 percent are Hispanic/Latinx, 12.8 percent are Black, 5.7 percent are Asian American, and 0.9 percent are Native American. The Census uses slightly different age groups than the drug companies, but says that 27.4 percent of Americans are between ages 55 and 84.
Of the patients in Moderna’s trial, 9.7 percent identified as Black or African American, 20 percent as Hispanic/Latinx, 4.7 percent as Asian, and 0.8 percent as Native American. Also, 25.3 percent were over the age of 65 (compared to 16.5 percent in the general population), and 22.3 percent had at least one high-risk chronic disease, such as diabetes, severe obesity, and cardiac disease.
In Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide trials, 59 percent of patients were white, 45 percent were Hispanic and/or Latinx, and 19 percent were Black or African American. In their trial in the United States, 74 percent were white, 15 percent Hispanic/Latinx, and 13 percent Black/African American. Forty-one percent of participants in the Johnson & Johnson study had health conditions associated with an increased risk for severe COVID-19.