Latin American leaders in Worcester volunteer to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trial

WORCESTER, MASS. (WHDH) - A group of Latin American leaders in Worcester have volunteered to join a coronavirus vaccine trial in the hopes of showing the need for minorities to be involved in these life-saving experiments.

Dr. Matilda Castiel is one of those leaders setting an example for people of color by getting a shot in the COVID-19 trial.

“Because of what’s been happening in the community and realizing that people of color, in particular Latinos, African Americans are very reluctant to get any type of vaccines,” she said. “Mostly from the history that happened in the past.”

Dr. Castiel serves as Worcester’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services and is one of three Latina community leaders in that city stepping up to get the experimental vaccine made by Pfizer. The trial is being administered by the UMass Medical School in Worcester — one of several trial sites around the country

“We’re looking for patients that have a high risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Dr. Robert Finberg of UMass Medical School said. “That would include people in Latinx areas. It would include African Americans. It would include health care workers, people over the age of 65.”

“Latinos in our community are three times more likely to get COVID and that African Americans are 2.2 times more likely to in our community to get COVID,” Castiel explained.

She does not know if she was given the real vaccine or a placebo but says she hopes her example will give others in her community the courage to sign up for trials and get the vaccine when it becomes available.

“So if they can see that we did it, that we had no side effects that we know of, and maybe it will make them feel comfortable and they would get the COVID vaccine,” Dr. Castiel said.

She is hopeful a safe and effective vaccine will be on the market by the end of this year or sometime early next year.

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