UVM Medical Center recruiting volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine study

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – The University of Vermont Medical Center is recruiting volunteers for a Phase 3 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine study developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

The study will track the safety and effectiveness of the investigational vaccine. Roughly 30,000 people will participate nationwide, with 400 volunteers needed at UVM Medical Center. There’s hope this latest trial phase could lead to a viable vaccine.

“Phase 3 means it actually works in the real world, that people who get vaccinated have a decreased risk of getting COVID-19,” said UVM Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler.

The ideal volunteer candidate should be over the age of 65, but UVMMC is considering anyone over the age of 18. Volunteers must be in good or stable health, have an increased risk of getting symptomatic illness from COVID-19, and should not have a previously confirmed diagnosis of the virus.

Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either two injections of the investigational vaccine or a placebo. It’s a two year commitment, requiring several visits to UVMMC’s study center. Additional visits will be required if volunteers develop COVID-19 symptoms during the study. Their health will be monitored carefully by a team of doctors and nurses, and injections, health assessments and medical tests related to the study will be provided at no cost. Participants will also be compensated for their time.

The launch of this new phase is a significant step towards a vaccine, but Dr. Leffler said expectations should be tempered for the time being. He noted that even when a safe vaccine is developed, it’ll likely take 3-4 months to get everyone vaccinated.

“It’s super-encouraging news, but the other things that we’re doing – masks, social distancing, washing our hands, they’re still the number one mechanism right now keeping us safe and each other safe,” Dr. Leffler said.

Dr. Leffler explained that Vermont was chosen due to the skill of local experts including infectious disease specialist Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick, as well as the State’s unique status at this stage of the virus spread.

“They approached Dr. Kirkpatrick about participating because they want her expertise, and we’re very lucky to have her in Vermont,” Dr. Leffler said. “The other reason is because we have a population that mainly has not been exposed to COVID, and we have an older population which they are very interested in in this trial.”

Before deciding whether to take part, volunteers will be provided with all the information needed to make an informed decision. Volunteers will have a chance to ask questions. Additionally, volunteers will be given time to decide if they want to take part in the study.  

Results from initial Phase I/II trials of the vaccine, led by Oxford University, showed it “was tolerated and generated robust immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in all evaluated participants,” according to AstraZenaca.

Anyone interested in participating in the trial can find more information here, or by calling 802-847-7339.

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