Building Trust in the Science of Vaccines
(NewsUSA) - During the pandemic, Geraldine Bradshaw, a school principal in Durham, North Carolina, volunteered for a clinical trial that tested one of the COVID-19 vaccines. She says her students inspired her to do so and she in turn wanted to inspire African Americans like herself. "It gave me the power to help pave a way for these children to have a better future," Bradshaw says, "and show them how important it is that people who look like them aid in the progression of science."
Now, Bradshaw can see how her participation paid off, as half of adults are fully vaccinated.
"Science is part of the solution to ending this pandemic," says Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
And at every step on the pathway to scientific discovery, safety leads the way. Safety always guides the scientific pathway toward vaccines and treatments. Safety steers scientific leaders like Gibbons, who review and fund research. Safety, and science also inform recruitment of volunteers like Bradshaw, who partners with researchers and participate in clinical trials, frames the rigorous and continuous oversight of studies, determines regulatory approval, guides engagement efforts in communities, and directs doctors and nurses who bring these discoveries to patients.
Yet myths and misleading information have generated questions, confusion, and mistrust. This has spurred an effort for many communities, especially those hit hardest by COVID-19, to talk about why they should trust the science behind new vaccines and treatments.
"It is my passion to communicate the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, and how they work, to people in the community," says Ian Moore, Ph.D., a chief of infectious disease pathology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also part of the NIH, who oversaw safety at the earliest stages of vaccine research in the lab.
Moore's in good company. "I can say with the utmost confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective," says Lisa A. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University, who reviewed and monitored Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine trial, which proved safe and 94% effective at preventing severe illness. "My role allows me to ease any concerns raised by family and friends and make sure they continue to trust the science."
And for many others on the scientific pathway, it's personal.
"Part of my role as an infectious disease physician is developing certain clinical protocols," says Katya Corado, M.D., a researcher at the Lundquist Institute. "I am able to confidently provide details to our communities which have been devastated by COVID. I no longer want to see my parents, my grandparents, or my cousins dying of COVID."
This type of outreach only seems to help. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February, nearly 70% of all adults and 61% of Black adults planned to get vaccinated compared to 60% of all adults and 42% of Black adults polled in November.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among the more than 123 million adults who were fully vaccinated in May, approximately 1,949, less than .001%, reported severe COVID-19 illness.
As a trusted messenger within his community, Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., M.P.H., a chief of general internal medicine at the University of Miami, shares this type of news through community-engaged outreach. "As a Latino physician, with more than 20 years of experience, it is very important to me that our hardest-hit communities receive the care and education they need and deserve," he says. "To ensure my community survives COVID-19, I educate my patients, family, and friends on the science surrounding COVID-19 and vaccine development."
And Chyke Doubeni, M.D., a family physician at the Mayo Clinic and a vaccine trial participant, shares, "I now tell everybody with confidence, that getting the vaccine is safe. I know, because I was involved."
To learn more about COVID-19 science and resources in your community, visit https://covid19community.nih.gov.