Leaders in Local COVID Fight Take Part in Vaccine Trial

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen both received a shot in the arm this week.


Observing that her arm was a bit sore, Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen announced during a Wednesday news conference that she and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald are taking part in a clinical trial to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.

Bogen received either a placebo or the vaccine, she doesn’t know which one, on Monday. Fitzgerald received his injection Wednesday. Both will receive a second shot in about a month.

UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are recruiting 750 people from Western Pennsylvania to participate in phase 3 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. Pittsburgh is one of 87 locations in the country selected for the phase 3 vaccine trials.

Fitzgerald and Bogen are part of a trial to test a vaccine by Moderna Inc., the first company to begin clinical trials in the U.S.

“As a pediatrician, I have great confidence in vaccines. Vaccines save lives and reduce health care costs,” Bogen said. “I want to be part of the solution.”

The injections are just the first step. Over the next two years, Fitzgerald and Bogen will have multiple blood tests and checkups to determine if the vaccine is safe and effective. Another trial will begin later this fall and both encourage others to volunteer.

“Anybody that can help out and be part of the finding [of] a cure and vaccine for this, we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to the community to try to do that,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re proud of our health care professionals here, the researchers, the people who’ve been working for many years with many breakthroughs. Obviously, this is one that’s top of mind for everybody in the region, and across the country, and across the world.”

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.

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