UCHealth launches second COVID-19 vaccine trial, recruiting participants


FILE PHOTO: A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of displayed “Coronavirus COVID-19” words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

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DENVER (KDVR) — UCHealth said researchers in northern Colorado are now recruiting participants for a study that will test a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.  

UCHealth said the study will include approximately 1,500 participants, ages 18 and older, who are at higher risk for exposure due to their work environments or habits.

The participants included will be occupations such as: health care worker, teacher, first responder or grocery store worker. Qualified participants also may have a stable health condition that puts them at risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing serious illness from the disease, according to UCHealth.

“This will give us a large group of people who will receive the vaccine – or a placebo vaccine – to see if it’s truly effective over a few weeks, a few months and up to two years,” said Dr. Gary Luckasen, the principal investigator of the trial and medical director of UCHealth’s clinical research program in northern Colorado. “The size of the group is of major importance because we can get a lot of information about the virus, the vaccine and how they interact.” 

UCHealth said the vaccine was developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Results from initial phases of the study on this particular vaccine were recently released and indicate the vaccine generates an antibody response. According to the report, most participants had neutralizing antibodies after one dose, and all participants had the antibodies after two doses. 

Unlike traditional vaccines, which expose someone to a small amount of virus, this vaccine is an inactive cold virus – adenovirus – combined with a protein that is seen on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The protein is an essential element that enables the coronavirus to infect a person. If the vaccine works as intended, the body will identify the protein as foreign and develop an immunity to it. Then, when the person is exposed to the new coronavirus in the community, the person will already have the ability to attack the virus and prevent infection, according to UCHealth.

“Theoretically, it sounds good,” Luckasen said. “The question is how much resistance does it cause, and is that enough to stop the virus in the future?”  

UCHealth said some of the 1,500 Colorado participants for this Phase 3 study will be identified through UCHealth patient records and invited to participate. Others who are interested in participating can answer pre-screening questions online to see if they qualify. Enrollment for the study will occur over an eight-week period with all of the enrollment activities taking place by appointment only at the official study site, which will be in the McKee Pavilion at The Ranch in Loveland.

“All of the vaccines are a little different than each other, so the trials that are being conducted around the world right now are key to determining what approach is going to work best in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Diana Breyer, chief quality officer for UCHealth’s northern Colorado facilities. “To be selected to conduct this type of groundbreaking research is a true testament to the expertise of our research programs and our experience collaborating as a system and with our partners to push the boundaries of innovation to improve care and outcomes.”  

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