Commentary: Building trust in COVID-19 vaccines

Researchers, industry leaders, and policymakers should work to build trust in COVID-19 vaccines among communities of color—and, beyond that, should seek to include these communities as equal partners in the research enterprise, according to a commentary co-authored by Karen Emmons, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The commentary was published December 10, 2020 article in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Unfortunately, as the science of vaccine development has swiftly progressed, the equally important science of community engagement, which should guide the establishment of mutually beneficial partnerships and promote eventual vaccine uptake, has lagged behind,” the authors wrote. “Communities of color (i.e. Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities), who remain at the highest risk of infection, have been peripheral, not central actors, in the pursuit of COVID-19 vaccines.” The authors noted that input from and concerns of communities of color were largely considered after the vaccine studies were designed and launched, as is typical in clinical research.

The authors called on industry, government, and academic institutions to focus on “authentic investment” in communities of color, with the goal of mitigating longstanding mistrust, improving vaccine uptake, and having a far-reaching impact beyond COVID-19.

The commentary offered a number of recommendations, such as making long-term financial investments in community organizations that partner in clinical research, providing resources to minority-owned businesses that do research-relevant work, and ensuring access to health care for vaccine trial participants.

Read the American Journal of Public Health commentary: Building Trust in COVID-19 Vaccines and Beyond Through Authentic Community Investment