The pharmaceutical company Moderna, which is testing a vaccine for Covid-19, said Friday that it is encouraging its trial sites to work harder to recruit diverse populations, even if those efforts slow the speed of enrollment.
“We believe these efforts will improve the quality of the study and confidence in the vaccine by building evidence for benefit in the communities at highest risk of COVID-19,” a spokesperson for Moderna told CNN in a statement.
The deceleration was first reported by CNBC.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the network it is slightly slowing the enrollment of volunteers to ensure participation from minority communities. Specifically, trial sites that have not enrolled enough Black and African American volunteers are being told they need to increase enrollment among those populations. Bancel said the deceleration could delay the progress of the trial by about a week.
Some context: The trial has been struggling to enroll enough minorities since at least mid-August.
Researchers at two of the sites told CNN in August that the company had asked them to limit the number of participants they enroll to no more than 20 per day.
Part of the reason was so that care could be taken to recruit more minorities, they said.
“We need to take the time to evaluate the people who want to be in study to make sure they meet inclusion criteria,” said Dr. Richard Novak, who’s running the site at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
By the numbers: Current enrollment figures show 68% of volunteers are White, 20% are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are Black or African American, 3% are Asian and 1% are representative of other populations.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN that phase three clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines should aim to include minorities at levels that are at least double their representation in the population to better reflect the population most affected by Covid-19.