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'Very encouraging' COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial coming to Baton Rouge

3 years 10 months 3 weeks ago Monday, July 20 2020 Jul 20, 2020 July 20, 2020 10:06 PM July 20, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Meridian Clinical Research is looking for volunteers right here in Baton Rouge for a coronavirus vaccine clinical trial.

They need anywhere from 350 to 500 adults to participate in the study. Those who are in the high-risk category for getting COVID-19 or those who are considered frontline workers are strongly encouraged to sign up. 

The doctor heading up the trial here in Baton Rouge says the initial results are very encouraging, but he's still cautiously optimistic because of how quickly this vaccine has been developed.

After just five months, the vaccine, made by biotech company Moderna, is moving forward. Soon, more than 30,000 people nationwide will have a chance to get it, including right here in the capital city. Currently, it's one of 23 vaccines being studied in a clinical setting worldwide.

"Normally, it would take five years of data collection,” Dr. Jordan Whatley said.

Results from Phase One of the study released last week showed that 45 patients got the vaccine and none reported any major side effects. Whatley, the principal investigator in Baton Rouge, explains that researchers haven't had the normal amount of allotted time to conduct the study due to the pandemic that’s still ongoing.

"When we say that the FDA has said that this vaccine is safe, there is an asterisk, meaning that we haven't had a good amount of time to follow up individuals,” Whatley said.

Whatley added that all patients in the initial study developed COVID-19 antibodies that can help block and defeat the virus. He called that very encouraging.

"Every individual who had the phase one vaccine, whether it was the low dose, medium dose, or high dose, showed neutralizing antibodies,” Whatley said.

The study is currently in Phase Two with about 600 participants. The initial results from Phase Two have not been released yet.

Those who qualify for Phase Three of the study in Baton Rouge will get one shot a month for two months at the Baton Rouge Dermatology Clinic.

"Half the individuals who will participate will receive a saline vaccine, and the other half will receive the true vaccine, that's how the FDA has designed this trial to see if it's going to be effective at preventing the COVID-19 viral infection,” Whatley said.

All participants will then have routine checkups for the next two years, mostly going in for blood work to track their antibodies. As far as how long those antibodies last, or if they completely block the virus from spreading or not, are two questions Whatley hopes they can answer.

"Right now, we just don't have great data. Somebody will be right five years down the road. We just don't know. So we feel a privilege to help get some good data and we hope that there are individuals that would help us in that,” Whatley said.

The vaccine itself is made up of genetic material from the virus called mRNA, according to Whatley. He says patients are injected with bits of protein and not the virus itself.

The trail is starting up at the beginning of August. Those who are selected will be compensated for their time. CLICK HERE for additional information.

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