African Americans have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo/Pew Charitable Trusts) 
African Americans have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo/Pew Charitable Trusts) 

News that Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that their coronavirus vaccine resulted in a more than 90 percent effective rate in preventing COVID-19, for those without previous infection, comes as the U.S. continues to see record-breaking new cases.

For the first time on Thursday, Nov. 12, the U.S. surpassed 150,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. The total number of cases has soared past 10.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Both California and Texas have recorded more than 1 million total cases, while states like Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have seen significant rises in COVID-19 infections.

The most recent available statistics show that the District has more than 18,500 total positive cases and 657 deaths. District health officials have administered nearly 572,000 COVID-19 tests for roughly 272,000 residents.

More than 242,000 people have died in the U.S. since the outbreak of the pandemic in March. Health officials expressed that the new vaccine offers real hope for the future.

“It is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, offered in a news release.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” Bourla remarked.

“We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

Pfizer’s vaccine serves as the first in the U.S. to generate late-stage data. Reportedly, an initial analysis revealed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90 percent fewer cases of symptomatic COVID-19 than those who received a placebo.

Significantly, health and science experts have stated that they expected a vaccine to yield only an effective rate of no more than 70 percent. And while that’s good news, many in the African-American community continue to take a wait-and-see approach.

“Somehow, scientific, education and community leaders must reassure a skeptical community of color that the vaccine will help and protect them,” said Gina Harper who created an urban garden in New York City after growing up on a farm in Oklahoma.

“Perhaps the best way would be to prove the point by exemplifying members of the Black community who have taken the vaccine and remained healthy,” she said.

The Pfizer vaccine clinical trial “went out of its way in their recruitment and enlarged their initial population of 30,000 to almost 44,000 to recruit more people of color,” stated Dale Yuzuki, a biotech executive and author of “COVID-19: From Chaos to Cure: The biology behind the fight against the novel coronavirus.”

“It is certainly a focus within the National Institutes of Health where they are sensitized to the acute needs of minority populations and

their justified suspicion of government-sponsored public health programs,” Yuzuki said.

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, one of the world’s foremost immunologists, and president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, counts as a recent appointee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s commission responsible for ultimately approving any vaccines including Pfizer’s.

Hildreth, an African American, insists that any vaccine must have the confidence of Blacks.

“I’ve made the decision that I’m going to participate in one of the vaccine trials. The trust issue cannot be overstated,” Hildreth said. “We have to have more trusted messengers and more trusted opinion leaders to make this work.”


Moderna announced on Monday, Nov. 16, that its COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective in a major trial – a second dash of hope in the global race for a shot to tame a resurgent virus that is now killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

The company said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, according to preliminary data from Moderna’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer, Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

The results are “truly striking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60 percent effective.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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