BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Researchers are urging Marylanders to take part in coronavirus vaccination studies as doctors seek to ensure possible participants they will not cut corners.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine is running two trials to help find a safe COVID-19 vaccine, but they’ve run into an issue: members of the minority community are reluctant to participate.

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Researchers have been busy for months studying potential vaccines, and “the trials are going fairly well,” Dr. Matthew Laurens, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor, said.

Still, they’re noticing African Americans and Latinos in particular are reluctant to participate.

“I think there definitely is mistrust and that may be related to historical studies where these communities have been taken advantage of in the past,” Laurens said.


African Americans have the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any race or ethnicity in Maryland, making up 32% of the state’s total. Latino communities have also been hit hard, considering they account for around 11% of the state’s population, based on 2010 Census data.

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Bruce Jarrell, the newly-named permanent president of the University of Maryland Baltimore, is enrolled in one of the trials himself.

“I hope the vaccine works and two, I hope that my participation helps to improve the health of our community,” he said.

Jarrell, a long-time surgeon, echoed the message of researchers: a lack of minority representation in trials could mean doctors won’t know if vaccines will work for those groups.

“To make sure our vaccine works in these individuals, we need them in our study so that we can say yes, the vaccine will protect them,” Laurens said.

This week, a group of vaccine developers signed a letter with their competitors, pledging none of them will bow to pressure and rush a vaccine to market if it’s not safe.

To learn more or to sign up to take part in a vaccine trial, click here.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Ava-joye Burnett