Older Adults Often Left Out Of Clinical Trials For Vaccines

Published: Monday, September 7, 2020 - 10:23am

Historically, older adults have been underrepresented in clinical trials for certain treatments. But with the coronavirus, it’s critical that older adults be included in vaccine trials since the virus can impact them at higher rates. 

Dr. Shad Marvasti is as associate professor and the director of public heath and prevention at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. He says medical research has been mostly limited to a certain demographic — specifically, "middle aged white men," he said.

While efforts have been made to include more people from diverse backgrounds, Marvasti said it isn't enough.

"We're still falling way too short, in terms of our inclusion of not only black and brown Americans, but also older Americans," he said.

And older adults can have more complex medical conditions. So their reaction to a vaccine could be different than that of a healthy 25-year-old.

"So there are safety concerns. And then there's also an efficacy effectiveness concern. Once when you look at it because you know, when we age, our body's immune system reacts differently," he said.

He said if certain populations are excluded, researchers won’t have a complete picture of the impact of a particular treatment.

"The outcome is that you have unanticipated side effects that occur with those individuals. They tend to also have more complex. other medical conditions. They also tend to be on multiple medications. So we don't know the interactions that may occur with common medications and the elderly or common chronic conditions among them."

According to the New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker, researchers are testing 37 vaccines in clinical trials on humans.

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