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Black doctors have created a task force to make sure COVID-19 vaccines are safe

woman in lab coat with stethoscope around her neck and hands on the table in front of her
(Image: © Shutterstock)

A professional society of Black physicians has formed a task force to assess COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, in light of concerns that federal agencies may approve vaccines and drugs without adequate proof that they work, Stat News reported.

The National Medical Association (NMA), which represents Black physicians and health professionals in the U.S., formed the task force following recent, controversial actions taken by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For instance, the CDC initially issued guidance that close contacts of infected people should only get tested for COVID-19 if they show symptoms, even though asymptomatic people can spread the virus; the FDA authorized the widespread use of plasma therapy for COVID-19 with little proof it works, and recently revoked its emergency authorization of hydroxychloroquine after patients developed serious heart, kidney and liver problems, according to the agency's website.

"There is a concern that some of the recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration have been unduly influenced by politicians," Dr. Leon McDougle, a family physician and president of the National Medical Association, told Stat News. In addition, President Donald Trump has teased that a COVID-19 vaccine could be available before November 3, raising concerns that the vaccine approval process might be dangerously rushed before data shows the vaccine works, according to The New York Times. To address this growing uncertainty, the NMA task force plans to double-check that any approved drug or vaccine is truly safe and effective.

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"I think this will help to increase uptake in the African American community, if members of our task force give it the green light," McDougle told Stat News. "What we've seen in terms of political interference in the FDA and CDC has really undermined what little trust the Black community had," added emergency physician Dr. Uché Blackstock, the founder and CEO of the consulting firm Advancing Health Equity, who is not a member of NMA. 

In addition to reviewing the safety and effectiveness of approved vaccines and drugs, the task force will look at whether clinical trial participants accurately represent the demographics of the broader U.S. population, according to Stat News. If the FDA approves a drug or vaccine without releasing all the relevant data, McDougle told Stat News that he hopes that NMA members involved with federal agencies could still get access to those reports.

While some experts agree that the task force is greatly needed, others worry that it could undermine acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines, in general, if the NMA's assessments clash with the official guidance of the CDC and FDA. 

The thought is that too much uncertainty could deter people from getting any approved vaccine, even if the panel confirms it's safe. Read the full story at Stat News.

Originally published on Live Science.