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Unequal access shapes COVID research

Research found disparities in access to COVID-19 clinical trials

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many health disparities in the U.S. Recent research from a team including UVA assistant professor of medicine Kathleen McManus (Med ’12, Res ’13) has found that many of the same demographic groups hardest hit early in the pandemic also lacked access to early clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments. In particular, the researchers found that some three-quarters of rural residents, about one-third of the entire U.S. population, and more than half of Native Americans lived more than an hour from the closest COVID-19 clinical trials site.

Nor was distance the only challenge to access; despite living closer to trial sites, Black and Hispanic Americans also were underrepresented, suggesting that other barriers limit who enrolls in clinical trials. McManus notes that access to clinical trials is not only a matter of equity; seeking diverse representation also helps ensure that potential benefits, risks and side effects are accurately identified in trials.