BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When Kira Fonteneau first found out about the COVID-19 vaccine trials, she thought she’d be one of the last people willing to participate. Then she realized the benefit it could have for minorities.
Fonteneau is a Black attorney in Birmingham who recently participated in a vaccine trial at a clinic on the campus of Princeton Baptist Medical Center. She received an injection, woke up the next morning with a runny nose, had soreness in her arm for a couple days, and then went about her regular routine. She said the runny nose could have been allergies, and she doesn’t know if she received the vaccine or a placebo. But she hopes her contributions help researchers form a more effective vaccine.
“I want us to get back to normal,” Fonteneau said. “I want to feel good about sending my daughter back to school. I want to feel good about having my mom be able to come visit us.”
But the main reason she chose to participate was to add more diversity to the trial. Fonteneau received a flyer in the mail about the need for more minority participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials. She had some trepidation about the trial itself, and she also knew that experiments have been used in unethical ways on women and minorities in the past.
“There’s this long history of people who are involved in studies not being used in an ethical way,” she said. “And that has particularly happened in communities of color. And it’s happened in other communities, as well, but it’s particularly salient to folks who know what has happened in our country before.”
Fonteneau did her research and found a lot of information about vaccines reacting differently in different populations. The concern, she said, is that doctors won’t understand how a vaccine can affect a certain group if few people from that group participate in the trials.
That’s when she decided to participate.
“If we don’t have a diverse pool in our vaccine trial, people could be getting a vaccine that was tested but ineffective,” she said. “And that’s not helpful either.”
She hopes her contribution will help researchers develop a vaccine that’s more likely to be effective in minorities. Whenever the vaccine is available, she hopes there will be good access for minorities and that cost and travel won’t be barriers.