DOI: 10.1177/17407745231217299 ISSN: 1740-7745

A pilot recruitment strategy to enhance ethical and equitable access to Covid-19 pediatric vaccine trials

William J Muller, Ravi Jhaveri, Taylor Heald-Sargent, Michelle L Macy, Nia Heard-Garris, Seema Shah, Erin Paquette
  • Pharmacology
  • General Medicine


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic disproportionately impacted communities with lower access to health care in the United States, particularly before vaccines were widely available. These same communities are often underrepresented in clinical trials. Efforts to ensure equitable enrollment of participants in trials related to treatment and prevention of Covid-19 can raise concerns about exploitation if communities with lower access to health care are targeted for recruitment.


To enhance equity while avoiding exploitation, our site developed and implemented a three-part recruitment strategy for pediatric Covid-19 vaccine studies. First, we publicized a registry for potentially interested participants. Next, we applied public health community and social vulnerability indices to categorize the residence of families who had signed up for the registry into three levels to reflect the relative impact of the pandemic on their community: high, medium, and low. Finally, we preferentially offered study participation to interested families living in areas categorized by these indices as having high impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their community.


This approach allowed us to meet goals for study recruitment based on public health metrics related to disease burden, which contributed to a racially diverse study population that mirrored the surrounding community demographics. While this three-part recruitment strategy improved representation of minoritized groups from areas heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, important limitations were identified that would benefit from further study.


Future use of this approach to enhance equitable access to research while avoiding exploitation should test different methods to build trust and communicate with underserved communities more effectively.

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