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As the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly assure the public that the vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be safe, indications that the review process may be undercut by politics has turned off people in minority communities on getting the vaccine when it becomes available.

When Black physician Tina Carroll-Scott started working at South Miami Children's Clinic, she said none of her Black patients would consider getting a flu shot.

A complicated history with forced vaccinations and experiments had undercut trust of medical procedures and immunization within Black communities.

For more than a decade, Carroll-Scott, the clinic's medical director, worked to build a relationship with those in the diverse south Florida neighborhood, where -- according to U.S. Census data -- the majority of residents are Hispanic and nearly 14% are Black.

"After being at the clinic for 13 years and educating patients about the flu vaccine and dispelling any myths they had about it," Carroll-Scott said, "I've now gotten my patients to a point where they talk to me, and they're willing to take it."

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To assuage fears within minority-group communities, a panel of Black doctors will vet the federal review of companies' covid-19 vaccines, said Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest group of Black physicians in the country.

"We have concerns," McDougle told MSNBC on Thursday about the vaccine's review process. "There's been a cloud of political influence dating back to hydroxychloroquine ... following that, convalescent plasma," he said, referring to the various treatment options promoted by President Donald Trump and other government officials.

"We want to be that nonpartisan, independent voice, speaking to the African American community and our physicians of the National Medical Association."

When asked what would happen if the panel does not approve a vaccine vetted by the FDA, McDougle said Black doctors are trusted within their communities, and if they don't believe in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, "it's not going to move forward."

McDougle told NPR that he spoke to members of Operation Warp Speed, the project working on a vaccine for the virus, to make the trial data on it publicly available.

The FDA referred The Washington Post to its past statements about the review process when asked about the panel, including testimony by Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Wednesday that its investigations into coronavirus vaccine candidates would be thorough.

"I want to assure you and emphasize every one of the decisions we have reached has been made by career FDA scientists based on science and data, not politics," Hahn said.

Hours later, Trump hinted in his news briefing that he may not sign off on stricter review guidelines recommended by the FDA, calling the change "a political move more than anything else."

Additional checks by outside organizations can further the scientific process, according to Richard J. Baron, the president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine, which is based in Philadelphia.

Baron said any disagreements between the National Medical Association and New York on the one side and the FDA and CDC on the other should raise concerns about the federal agencies.

"I would not lay the blame at the feet of the organizations that are trying to maintain a scientific approach," he said in an interview.

"I would lay it down at the feet of the federal organizations that are chartered to oversee a scientific approach and don't seem to be demonstrating a public commitment to that."

Americans have increasingly expressed concern about a vaccine that is available within the year. Three-quarters of U.S. adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center in September said it is at least somewhat likely that a coronavirus vaccine will be approved before it's fully known whether it is safe and effective.

Suma Vupputuri, an epidemiologist and research scientist for Kaiser Permanente, who studied the rates of flu vaccination across races, said oversight over the safety of a vaccine may be a more effective way to recruit Black patients and garnering trust than a blind effort to disseminate a vaccine in Black communities that is not safe.

"You almost go the other direction if you're trying to push a vaccine that may not be safe at a Black community, and if something does go wrong, and there are ill effects, then all of a sudden, all those good intentions went exactly in the opposite direction," Vupputuri told The Washington Post.

In south Miami, Carroll-Scott informally surveyed her own patients about their likelihood of getting a coronavirus vaccine and found "a lot of the patients were concerned about the speed."

"Overwhelmingly the answer was no. I would say that that was the consensus. I don't think I had one patient who said that they would be willing to take this vaccine," she said.

"I think just the name, 'Operation Warp Speed,' invokes a lot of fear and suspicion," Carroll-Scott said of the name given to the White House's efforts to scale up vaccination.


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