DeLAND, Fla. – A DeLand research facility is actively recruiting minority participants for its COVID-19 vaccine trials because study officials said they are currently underrepresented.
Gregorio Rivera received his first dose of the vaccine at Accel Research Sites on Wednesday.
“If somehow I can help them find a cure or something to at least alleviate the situation, I think I did my part as a citizen,” Rivera said.
Rivera’s drive to serve our country is still strong after spending 15 years serving in the United States Army.
The 64-year-old is originally from Puerto Rico and now lives in Central Florida. He’s serving again in hopes of helping researchers find a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think it’s a way to help solve this big health issue. It’s not much that we as a citizen can do outside of participating in this research,” he said.
The facility is actively recruiting participants like Rivera and trying to get minorities to take part in the study.
Dr. Bruce Rankin is leading the efforts. He said minorities are disproportionately affected by the virus.
“They represent a higher group when it comes down to the COVID illness. They’re getting more severe disease, more of them are ending up in hospitals, so we want to make sure we have good representation doing this vaccine trial for those groups,” Rankin said.
Latinos and African Americans represent 18% and 13% of the U.S. population, respectively.
According to CBS News, black Americans and Latinos are more than four times more likely to be hospitalized with the coronavirus than white Americans.
Rankin said minorities need to participate so researchers can get a better understanding of how a vaccine can help.
“We still want to make sure we get good representation of those groups so we’ll do anything and everything we can to get people in those groups who may want to participate and help out with the vaccine trial,” Rankin said.
Rankin said more than 1,300 people are participating in the Moderna trial at the DeLand site. He said 10% are minorities.
Nationwide, Moderna said currently 27% of participants come from “diverse communities.”
Rankin said misinformation about the study could stop minorities from participating. He said many may think they’ll get the virus or spread it, but he said that can’t happen.
“We need people that are coming from the minority groups so they can help us see how the vaccine works in those groups,” Rankin said.
Rivera said some people may be scared.
“They might be afraid. What is to them the unknown. You don’t know what it’s going to be, something bad, something new,” Rivera said.
But he said his drive to serve outweighs any fear.
“By participating in research like this and then being a Hispanic, what else can I do for my race?,” Rivera said. “I feel that it is really, really important as a minority to get involved in this research and activities that can help our own race.”
For more information about the vaccine trial and details on how to sign up, click here.