Meeting People Where They Are: Improving Diverse Recruitment for an RSV Vaccine Trial

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2 Months

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An Overlooked Epidemic

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections are widespread and often mistaken for the flu or a cold. Most people contract RSV before the age of two and maintain immunity into their 50s or older.1 However, senior citizens are vulnerable to severe infections.

Despite being a common infection, RSV is still relatively unknown to the public. It can be mistaken for other viral infections like influenza, the cold virus, or the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19.2

Large institutions have pushed for more public awareness of RSV in recent years. As a result, the CDC has begun an RSV surveillance program,3 and pharmaceutical companies have started to develop RSV vaccines.

RSV has become part of the health equity conversation because RSV season has the most prolonged duration in areas with high percentages of African American or Black residents.4

There has also been a cultural shift towards a more diverse representation in medicine. Public and private institutions alike expect trial populations to appropriately represent all races and ethnicities. However, there are many historical, cultural, and institutional barriers to diverse clinical trial recruitment.

Poor Recruitment of Diverse Participants

In early 2021, a clinical research organization (CRO) tasked Acclinate with helping them recruit participants for an RSV vaccine trial. The trial sponsor expected a particular mix of races and ethnicities in the US-based studies.

However, the customer had historically poor recruitment of diverse participants. Most of the customer’s trial sites were located in areas with low diversity (majority non-Hispanic, White residents). As a result, the customer lacked trust among the nearby communities of color. In addition, the customer had never applied a consistent approach to diverse recruitment across all of their sites.

The customer anticipated difficulty recruiting a diverse population from their target demographic, healthy seniors 50 years or older. In addition, the lack of trust between communities of color and the pharmaceutical industry would likely keep healthy seniors of color from enrolling.

Acclinate proposed a six-month pilot program to assess and improve the customer recruitment process. With Acclinate’s targeted engagement strategy, the customer could finally begin approaching target participants more effectively and meet the new standards of the pharmaceutical industry.
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Identifying the lack of trust that companies have with communities of color, than accessing and engaging those communities on behalf of our partners, positions Acclinate like no other company."
— Tiffany Whitlow | Chief Development Officer, Acclinate

Identify. Engage. Ask.

Acclinate found that communities near the customer's trial sites lacked trust and awareness of the customer. To establish trust, Acclinate planned a three-phase engagement strategy:
Identify icon
PHASE I: Identify
Acclinate assessed the population demographics near each site and identified where engagement would be the most effectively implemented.
Engage icon
PHASE II: Engage
Acclinate developed new marketing materials that better resonated with the target participants and showed the customer’s dedication to serving the community. Acclinate also contacted dozens of community leaders to form top-down relationships of trust.
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Acclinate distributed IRB-approved digital ads to residents near the customer’s sites. These ads linked to a landing page created specifically for the customer's RSV trial. Interested participants could enter their contact information and schedule a screening with the customer.

Throughout the engagement campaign Acclinate tracked the number of impressions, leads, and referrals that the campaign generated. The customer also provided weekly feedback and enrollment data.

Acclinate’s Impact

Long delays due to natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the customer's site initiation visits (SIV) back several weeks. As a result, Acclinate's engagement campaign was only in Phase III for two months.

Those two months proved to be fruitful, resulting in:
screened participants were referred via Acclinate's landing page
non-White participants enrolled (of 120 total)

4. /Docs/RSV/rsv_final_paper.pdf