Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave. in Austin, will be among the sites that will test individuals taking the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines, according to a Dec. 4 report in Crain’s Chicago Business. 

The hospital is one of a few dozen safety-net community hospitals in Chicago, serving primarily low-income and uninsured patients.

“Too often in our past, we’ve seen vaccines or drug regimens come to market that didn’t work as expected on minority populations, because they weren’t appropriately tested on these groups,” according to a statement Crain’s obtained by Dr. Lois Clarke, Loretto’s director of clinical research. “If we, as a community, want to benefit from a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s time to step up and make sure we’re being representatively included in the trials.” 

Crain’s reported that FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn stressed the importance of diversity in clinical trials. 

“To further promote and protect public health, it is important that people who are in clinical trials represent the populations most likely to use the potential medical product,” Hahn said. 

A representative for Loretto told Crain’s that the hospital expects to start testing “three potential COVID-19 vaccines as early as February,” but declined to identify the drugmakers. 

Crain’s reported that “a source familiar with the impending trial said at least one is manufactured by Merck.”  

The news of Loretto’s status as a test site comes as community leaders have been demanding that the federal government prioritize Black communities in the process of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. 

On Nov. 29, a group of West Side faith leaders convened a press conference at the JLM Abundant Life Center, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd. 

The leaders were particularly referencing the distribution of the initial batches of the COVID-19 vaccine that will soon be given to essential healthcare workers and people working and living in long-term care facilities. 

“We understand healthcare workers should be first, that those first-responders should be first, we understand that those in hospital rooms should be first, but we’re saying that since those in the African American community and the Latino community have been greatly affected by [the COVID-19 virus], we’re asking Congress to mandate the distribution of it. We should be next in line,” said Rev. John Harrell, the founder of the faith-based social service organization Black Men United. 

Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) referenced the CDC guidelines determining which groups of people should receive the initial doses of the vaccine before calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to establish a commission “to make sure” that the initial allocation of the vaccine “is done right.”