Hundreds of UF students taking part in landmark vaccine study

Researchers will track the spread of COVID-19 among newly vaccinated college students

The study will arm researchers with information about how COVID-19 spreads among younger people who have been vaccinated against it. (Courtesy of the University of Florida)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of University of Florida students are set to receive COVID-19 vaccines as part of a nationwide study to see if young people can spread the coronavirus after getting vaccinated.

The university announced its role in the landmark study Monday, saying that two groups of about 500 to 700 students each will receive the Moderna vaccine and then be monitored for several months, along with those who are considered close contacts of the participants.

Ultimately, the goal is to study approximately 12,000 students at 22 universities across the country and about 25,500 close contacts to see if the vaccine keeps them from transmitting the virus.

“It’s a very important and unanswered question: Can vaccinated college students still spread the COVID-19 virus?” Dr. Michael Lauzardo, deputy director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, said.

Participating students will be split into two groups, with the first getting vaccinated as soon as possible and the rest getting their vaccinations several months from now, according to Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, an associate professor for the UF College of Medicine, who’s leading UF’s part of the study.

“We expect that vaccinations are decreasing transmission, but we don’t quite know how much or what really is happening among certain groups such as younger people,” Dr. Cherabuddi said.

Study participants will receive two doses of the vaccine, submit three blood samples, and submit to saliva testing twice a week and daily self-collected nasal swabs. The hope is that researchers will learn how long the virus takes to shed and what influence virus variants have on vaccine immunity.

To take part in this study, you must be an undergraduate or graduate student between the ages of 18 and 26 who has not tested positive for COVID-19 or gotten a vaccine. Participants will be paid for their time, effort and any travel costs.

Cherabuddi, who called the study the best to date in terms of examining the virus’s spread among younger individuals, said the ideal subject is someone who wants to contribute to the development of new scientific knowledge about the spread of COVID-19.

“The findings could have wide-ranging impact by providing important scientific information for government leaders and public health experts about transmissibility of the virus after vaccination,” Cherabuddi said. “It will likely answer the question of how long we should use preventive measures such as masks and social distancing.”

To learn more about the study and find out if you’re eligible, visit the Prevent COVID U website.