“Researchers think this is a really good thing to have as many diverse patients as possible,” he said. “Hopefully that will continue. That’s where I’m super excited about it.”
For COVID-19, in particular, people who are interested in participating in trials will have plenty of other opportunities, he said. Meridian expects to offer trials for several other vaccines before the end of the year.
The company also is recruiting younger people, down to age 16 for now, for the trials. And dozens more vaccine candidates are in the development pipeline, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker.
The workforce at many meatpacking plants is strikingly diverse — workers may be white, Latino, East African or Southeast Asian, among other groups.
Eric Reeder, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 293, sent text messages to an estimated 7,000 workers and put up fliers in several plants and the union hall. It wasn’t an endorsement of the trials, and no one was pressured to sign up, Reeder said. The effort was just a way to inform workers who might be interested in volunteering.
“If it’s approved, they’d be at the front of the line for getting the regular vaccine,” he said.
Multiple companies running vaccine trials have been trying to recruit not only a representative sampling of participants from different ages and backgrounds but also essential workers in higher-risk environments, like health care providers, meatpackers and teachers, who potentially could be exposed to the virus more than those who aren’t leaving the house much. Reeder knows workers who volunteered for the trial from Grand Island, Omaha, Fremont and Crete.