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Mobile clinics helping to diversify COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

Matrix Medical Network is using mobile clinics to conduct a national clinical trial for a new COVID-19 vaccine. The idea is that mobile clinical trials help reach a more diverse population than traditional clinical trials, often held at a standing medical facility that not as many people might be able to reach.
When large-scale clinical trials are held, like with the coronavirus vaccines, it’s not always easy to get a diverse group of people to the testing facility. Mobile units can help by bringing those clinical trials to the people.
On a recent day in February, the mobile clinic was in Baltimore, a city with a sizable African American population, which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Posted at 12:45 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 12:45:20-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — For nurse Sara Swenson, a day at the office comes with a view out of a windshield.

“Prior to the pandemic, it was used to like, literally, it was mobile health clinic, getting to patients who wouldn't have as good access to health care,” she said.

That was then and this is now. Matrix Medical Network is using mobile clinics to conduct a national clinical trial for a new COVID-19 vaccine.

“The way that clinical trials have worked, up to this point, have only worked for a subset of the population, meaning that you'd have to travel two, three hours to get to a site where a clinical trial might be conducted and that just is hard to do,” said Dr. Daniel Castillo, Matrix’s Chief Medical Officer.

When large-scale clinical trials are held, like with the coronavirus vaccines, it’s not always easy to get a diverse group of people to the testing facility. Mobile units can help by bringing those clinical trials to the people.

“The data that we're seeing from our clinical trials is that it very, very much represents the diversity of our country,” Dr. Castillo said.

On a sunny February day, the mobile clinic was in Baltimore, a city with a sizable African American population, which has been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

“It's kind of proving that how it can be done and how it's not that hard,” Swenson said.

Right now, Matrix is conducting mobile vaccine trials in 18 states across the country, as part of an effort to get the most diverse patients possible.

“How those therapies work on people of color, different backgrounds, with different co-morbidities, that's an incredibly powerful data that we have to have as a scientific community,” Dr. Castillo said.

It could also potentially help develop more COVID-19 vaccines, and even future treatments, which can benefit everyone.