The presidents of two New Orleans HBCUs are speaking out on the importance of Black and brown participation in the coronavirus vaccine trials, by using themselves as an example.
According to CNN, Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough and Xavier University of Louisiana President Reynold Verret announced their participation in a Phase 3 vaccine trial earlier this month, and have already received their injections and are monitoring and reporting symptoms and side effects.
“Our communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with harrowing consequences for the lives and health of our fellow citizens. Overcoming the virus will require the availability of vaccines effective for all peoples in our communities, especially our Black and brown neighbors.,” the presidents wrote in a joint statement.
Currently, both of the educators are doing well, according to the statement, and encouraged other students, faculty and staff, as well as others in general to participate in similar trials.
“The people and communities we serve look to us as an example,” the statement read. “Our participation in such studies will help find ways to better fight the pandemic.”
Kimbrough told CNN that the lack of participation from the Black community particularly concerned him.
“I just kept seeing all of the articles that indicated we don’t have good representation,” Kimbrough said. “People are making the case that you don’t know if it works for all populations if you don’t have a robust sample.”
To that end, he has gotten some negative responses, with some people comparing him to a “lab rat,” according to the report.
“I think overwhelmingly people are skeptical,” he said.
Of course, neither Kimbrough nor Verret are overlooking the painful history of Black and brown bodies being used for experiments in medical research, such as with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and the systemic racism that continues to plague Black Americans in the medical field that have caused mistrust.
“Today, there are many regulations in place to assure the ethical execution of medical studies, including oversight by Human Subjects Committees with diverse membership and participation of clinicians of color,” they noted. “Two of the leading physicians are Drs. Julia Garcia Diaz and Yvens Laborde.”