Vaccine Trial In Texas Needs Volunteers

Barbara Schwarz
July 08, 2020 - 5:35 am

    Researchers in Houston are looking for up to a thousand people willing to roll up their sleeves and get an experimental shot. 

    It's for a phase three COVID-19 trial, which Dr. Frederick Santiago with the Texas Center for Drug Development says means the vaccine has been deemed safe. He says this is not a traditional shot as it doesn't use a portion of the live or killed virus. "We use proteins that are normally present in the body and develop them along so they actually trigger your cells to make antibodies against the virus when it shows up.  There's no exposure to the virus."

    Would-be volunteers will be thoroughly screened and their blood will be drawn to ensure they don't have, or have never had COVID-19. Those accepted will either get the vaccine or a placebo and will go through a number of follow up appointments and blood draws, at first weekly, and then less frequently.

    The goal is to determine whether or not they still have the antibodies. Santiago says "We can tell by doing blood tests whether the immunity you've developed from an incidental exposure to the organism is actually effective, looking at how well the antibody inhibited it or neutralized it."

    Some participants will get a placebo injection and some the real thing. The hope is that those who have been vaccinated will be protected. "Whether it actually slows up the length of time you have symptoms or in fact, where you may get a symptom, your chances of dying of it are less.  It's similar to the rest of the vaccines we have now."  The study will also determine how long antibodies last and if a booster shot would be needed.

    Collaborators include preeminent U.S. pharmaceutical companies and the NIH as part of Operation Warp Speed (OWS). OWS is a public-private partnership, initiated by the Federal Government of the United States, to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

    It aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 to Americans by January 2021.