A panel of black doctors has been created to vet the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of coronavirus vaccines.
The move by the National Medical Association, the oldest group of black physicians in the US, has been triggered by fears that decisions would be based on political expediency rather than science.
Similar fears have been voiced by New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, who said the state would independently vet vaccines approved by the federal government.
An Axios-Ipsos poll last month showed that only 28 per cent of black Americans would be willing to take a first-generation Covid-19 vaccine, compared with 51 per cent of whites and 56 per cent of Hispanics.
African-Americans are reluctant to be early adopters of the vaccine even though the latest figures, released by the Centres for Disease Control last month, showed that they were more than twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than white people.
“Within the African-American community there is a mistrust dating back to the Tuskegee syphilis study,” a spokesman for the Association told the Telegraph.
In that study, which ran from 1932-1972, hundreds of black men, mainly impoverished sharecroppers, were left untreated for syphilis to enable scientists to assess the efficacy of penicillin.
Leon McDougle, the president of the Association, said there were serious questions over whether the FDA’s decisions on approving the vaccine were being dictated by politics.
Under fire over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, Donald Trump has hyped a number of cures in recent months including the use of hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma.
In both cases, the FDA bypassed normal safety protocols to give the drugs emergency use authorisation.
The administration has signalled that it wants to fast-track a vaccine under a programme called “Operation Warp Speed.”
Originally Mr Trump set a target date for a safe vaccine to be delivered by next January.
That has been brought forward triggering fears among scientists the FDA will be under pressure to ease vetting requirements to enable a vaccine to be announced ahead of the election.
“Questions of political influence on the scientific process because of Operation Warp Speed have threatened the public trust in the FDA,” Mr. McDougle said. “That will adversely affect participation in clinical trials, especially in the African-American community.”
The NMA task force will provide recommendations to the FDA and doctors about the deployment of vaccines and treatments undergoing clinical trials, he added.
Last week FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged that the administration’s decisions would be based “on science and data, not politics.”