SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A third vaccine is being tested in Northern California but UC Davis Health officials are putting out a special call for specific participants. They want minority groups hit hardest by COVID-19 to participate, including the Latino community, Native Americans and African Americans.
Virginia Hedrick, Executive Director for the Consortium for Urban Indian Health, has made it her mission to raise awareness about the COVID-19 impact on the Native American community since the beginning of the pandemic. Now, she’s finding hope with a new vaccine in the works called Norovax, as UC Davis Health wants to focus on Native Americans.
“We have seen deaths of our elders and knowledge lost that we’ll never get back. So when we see a vaccine trial including our community, it means we have an opportunity to see how it works, how effective it will be,” said Hedrick.
Participants will have to make 8-10 visits over the 26-month study, with some getting the actual vaccine and others getting a placebo over 2 doses 21 days apart.
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“I mean I think it is a good thing especially seeing that someone is out there trying to help these different communities. With healthcare not so affordable for everybody so we just tend to fall through the cracks,” said Damion Saunders, organizer for Allies For Black Lives Placer County.
“As we hear about UC Davis prioritizing Latinos, people of color in these trials that is incredibly important given the vulnerability of farm workers,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, Executive Director of the United Farm Workers Foundation.
But even as the trial is critical, many recognize that getting minorities to participate will be a challenge.
“I have relatives who are fighting in the hospital right now to overcome that so we need to make sure our voice is being heard,” said Assemblymember James Ramos, (D)-Highland.
Ramos, the first California Native American legislator, says getting people to trust the government and the vaccine will be difficult, which is something that’s already been seen in the Latino community.
“These are the issues and the areas that we need to make sure that we are represented. And here in this trial, that is going on, we have to be able to calm those fears,” said Ramos.
Torres also points out that getting the correct information to calm concerns in the Latino community will be critical in getting farm workers vaccinated or even willing to participate in trials.
“Ensuring that their personal information will not be provided to federal ICE officials for example,” said Torres.
UC Davis Health plans on enrolling 200-300 participants, but the overall research effort hopes to enroll up to 30,000 people in the U.S. and Mexico. You can find more information on the clinical trial on the study’s website.