Jacksonville clinical research center encourages more African Americans to enroll in COVID-19 vaccine trials

News4Jax reporter Erik Avanier spoke with local doctors about this skepticism of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As more people continue to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, there are growing concerns that many African Americans across the United States don’t want to get the vaccine because they don’t trust it.

Due to these concerns, Dr. Michael Koren of the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research recently spoke with dozens of Black physicians across the U.S. who are a part of a national organization called Black Health Trust.

When it comes to the coronavirus, Koren says, one aspect of the virus has remained constant.

“The virus can’t see Black or white. The virus doesn’t care what race you are. The virus affects us all,” Koren said.

But despite that, many doctors across the United States are dealing with African American patients who say they won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t trust it. Doctors say the distrust comes from remembering the events in Tuskegee, Alabama, where, for 40 years, untreated syphilis was secretly tested on African Americans. But Koren says times have changed.

“In the 1970s, all the rules of clinical research changed,” Koren said. “Since then, we’ve been very focused on making sure that studies are set up to maximize the benefits of people to participate.”

COVID-19 has been shown to disproportionately affect African Americans, which is why the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research is urging more African Americans to enroll in clinical trials for the Novavax vaccine. Jacksonville family physician Dr. Rogers Cain says when it comes to trusting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are already being distributed, he’s very upfront with patients who may have doubts.

“If I won’t treat my family members with this medication or this therapy, then I won’t do it to you,” Cain said.

RELATED: Task force aims to vaccinate Black Floridians

Cain says that while trust is an issue, the biggest problem is effective communication between doctor and patient.

“When you don’t sit back and talk to people and explain to them what things mean and talk over their head with highly medical technical terms, these patients will sit there and shake their heads but it went right over,” Cain said.

Cain says it’s up to doctors to explain to patients how the vaccine works on a level their patients can fully understand. He also says doctors need to carefully listen to their patients’ concerns and not appear to be in a rush to get to their next patient appointment, as effective listening allows the doctor to fully respond to those concerns.

Cain says despite the number of African Americans who say they won’t get the vaccine, there are many who say they want to get the vaccine but feel the current rollout of the vaccine in Florida has made it more difficult for them to receive it.

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