Interested in Helping to Test the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Pitt and UPMC are recruiting over 750 volunteers for the Moderna vaccine.
UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are recruiting hundreds of people from Western Pennsylvania to participate in phase III coronavirus vaccine trials. It’s part of a national initiative, COVID-19 Prevention Network and Operation Warp Speed, to accelerate the development of a safe and effective vaccine.
Dr. Judy Martin, director of the Pittsburgh Vaccine Clinical Trials Units at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, is leading the trials, along with Dr. Sharon Riddler, director of clinical research in Pitt’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
Volunteers will be recruited to test an RNA-based vaccine developed by Moderna Inc., which is set to begin in late July. In the New England Journal of Medicine, Moderna reported promising results of its phase I trial, which demonstrates some mild side effects and the development of antibodies that could fight off the virus.
Pittsburgh is one of 87 locations in the country that was selected for the phase III vaccine trials.
“Pittsburgh really has a long history of vaccine research, starting in the 1950s with Jonas Salk,” says Martin in a press briefing. “I think now with this first study and the others that may follow, Western Pennsylvania has another chance to participate in these research studies, which are really going to make a difference both in our local community, as well as nationwide and across the world.”
Riddler reports that UPMC expects over 750 individuals over the age of 18 to participate who are not severely immunocompromised. The ideal participants would be either more likely to contract COVID-19 or likely to have complications if they were to contract the virus. This would include people whose occupations or circumstances put them at increased risk, such as those who live in densely packed housing, healthcare workers, bus drivers, teachers and school staff.
Riddler says individuals who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, such as Black and Latinx populations, elderly people and those who have underlying health issues will be given higher priority for enrollment into the study.
Participants will be randomly given either the study vaccine or a placebo, which is a saline or saltwater injection. In some of the studies, there will be a second dose, or a “booster,” generally given several weeks after the first dose. All of the participants will be followed for up to two years to identify any complications. Blood tests will also be administered within those two years to look at the immune response to the vaccine and see if the antibody response decreases over time.
Anyone who is interested in registering for the study can visit coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org/clinical-study-volunteer/ or email VTEU@chp.edu or call 412-692-7382.