Will the Pfizer vaccine work for everyone? UAB doctor examines diversity in trial

FDA to determine if vaccine offers equal protection

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Days before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 53 pages of the data and analysis of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Latisha Elopre was hopeful it would work, and for everyone.

“I think we are all optimistic that it is going to be just as efficacious across different populations right now,” said Dr. Elopre.

Dr. Elopre is an infectious diseases physician at UAB Hospital and is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Graduate Medical Education in the School of Medicine.

Her areas of expertise are colliding as she treats patients and researches the impacts of this pandemic.

“I think we are already seeing evidence that COVID-19 has impacted different communities in that we are seeing a lot of disparities when it comes to who is getting infected and what kind of outcomes they’re receiving,” said Dr. Elopre.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Black and Hispanic people are at least three times as likely as white people to be hospitalized with the virus, however, there are eight times as many white people than Black in Pfizer’s trial.

According to data released by the FDA, 9.8% of participants in the trial are Black, 26.2% are Hispanic or Latino and 81.9% are white.

“I think in a perfect trial, you would have a reflection in the trial of the number of people and the percentages of individuals who are being impacted by an epidemic reflected in who is being enrolled in the trial,” said Dr. Elopre.

Dr. Elopre thinks the trial needed more diversity, but said there was more than most.

“I think there are a lot of reasons as to why it is so critical to recruit African-Americans, Hispanic and minority populations for trials and also why it’s also very difficult to recruit those populations as well,” said Dr. Elopre.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a panel of independent scientists, will review the trial data on Thursday before recommending whether the FDA should grant emergency use authorization (EUA).

“They want to make sure that when we are trying to effectively create vaccines to prevent infections and hopefully mortality related to COVID-19, the populations that are being most heavily impacted are going to get a benefit from the vaccine as well,” said Dr. Elopre.

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