Black distrust leads to task force to vet US health agencies’ decisions

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In response to a withering of trust in US health agencies, a group of Black physicians has created their won task force to independently vet regulators’ decisions about COVID-19 drugs and vaccines as well as government recommendations for curbing the pandemic.

STAT News reports that organised by the National Medical Association – founded in 1895 as an answer to racist professional societies excluding Black doctors – the committee is meant to safeguard against any unscientific guidance from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s necessary to provide a trusted messenger of vetted information to the African American community,” said Leon McDougle, a family physician and president of the NMA. “There is a concern that some of the recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration have been unduly influenced by politicians.”

Just one of the examples he gave was the agency’s go-ahead to use hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 even though there was no reliable evidence that it worked, and some indication that it could cause heart damage. The FDA later back-tracked and revoked the authorisation.

McDougle frames the new task force as a way to address the suspicion that has sprouted up around COVID-19 vaccines. Some worry that, in being developed at “warp speed,” the shots might not be safe or properly tested before they’re approved, and the anxiety is only heightened for those who’ve been alienated by the medical system. That’s part of the reason that certain patients of colour are especially wary of taking part in the clinical trials – and those concerns may well persist even if adequate studies are done and a vaccine hits the market.

They’ll also be evaluating how well the clinical trial participants represent the demographic breakdown of the American population, as well as the fairness of the federal plans to distribute a vaccine – both of which are especially important given the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on Black, Latino, and Native American communities.

“There is a need for this task force. We need a trusted organisation to take the lead on this effort,” said emergency physician Uché Blackstock, the founder and CEO of the consulting firm Advancing Health Equity, who is not a member of the NMA. “What we’ve seen in terms of political interference in the FDA and CDC has really undermined what little trust the Black community had.”

 

Full STAT News report

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