Black individuals in the USA continue to be underrepresented in clinical trials with low participation rates in COVID-19 research studies. Identifying participation barriers is necessary as we develop more vaccines and other treatments to address SARS-CoV-2 and associated sequelae. The purpose of this explorative, qualitative study is to apply the theory of planned behavior to understand motivators and barriers to COVID-19 research participation at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding these factors is important to ultimately lead to increased vaccination rates among Black individuals, especially in strategies that increase preparedness in response to public health emergencies.
A phenomenological qualitative study design was conducted between May and September 2020 among 62 Black participants. The participants were purposefully selected from vulnerable subgroups of the Black population: essential workers, young adults, parents, and individuals with underlying medical conditions. An inductive-deductive content analysis approach was used to analyze the interview data.
Majority (54.8%) reported willingness to participate in COVID-19 research. The following themes emerged from the interviews: (1) positivity toward research exists yet fear and distrust remain; (2) views toward COVID-19 research vary; (3) motivators to COVID-19 research participation; (4) barriers to COVID-19 research participation; and (5) potential strategies to increase COVID-19 research participation.
Based on our findings, majority of the participants reported willingness to participate in research with observational research being the most commonly cited type of research. Providing data on the attitudes and perspectives of Black individuals and their intentions for COVID-19 research participation using TPB informs intervention targets for healthcare providers and policy makers for an equitable emergency response. Our results suggest improved communication on the research process, research opportunities, and participant testimonial through trusted sources could increase the likelihood of participation. This is especially important as we continue through the pandemic and new treatments for COVID-19 vaccines become readily available.