JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A clinical research group based in Jacksonville is doing its part to help scientists develop a reliable COVID-19 vaccine.
The Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research was one of only a handful of private research entities awarded COVID-19 vaccine trials.
Now that phase one and two are complete, researchers at the center are starting phase three, but that requires hundreds of volunteers.
At the center, Dr. Michael Koren and his team are working on two different COVID-19 vaccine studies -- one for pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the other for biotechnology company Moderna.
“And we are one of approximately 90 sites that are involved in these trials,” Koren explained.
Phase three of Koren and his team’s research requires at least 500 volunteers from Jacksonville. They would prefer volunteers who are on the frontlines of COVID-19 and are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“People who are health care providers are wonderful participants in this type of program. They are being exposed to COVID-19 day to day,” Koren said.
People who work as store clerks and are face to face with customers every day are also considered great candidates for this study. Koren also said minorities would make great volunteers given the fact that COVID-19 has severely impacted African-Americans and Hispanics.
“We will prioritize the highest risk group of patients, but we’re looking for a broad type of population,” Koren said.
Before doses of the vaccine are administered, volunteers are evaluated as a safety precaution.
“If you have a serious immune problem, we’re not going to put you through the study. If you are on medication that we think will put you through complications, we’re not going to put you through the study. If there is something in your medical history that is of concern, we’re not going to put you through the study,” Koren said.
Volunteers are monitored via phone calls, electrical devices and face-to-face visits for the first 28 days.
“And then at day 28 for both programs, you get a second dose of the vaccine to make sure you are immune to COVID-19,” Koren said.
As a disclaimer, not every volunteer will get the vaccine. Some will get a placebo.
Koren also said the vaccine is not a live sample of the COVID-19 but merely an engineered molecule that forces the body to create an immune response.