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Health & Medicine

Upstate Seeks COVID Vaccine Study Volunteers, Seeking Broad Range of People for Huge Test

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Upstate Medical University here in Syracuse is already getting hundreds of requests to be part of a study to find an effective coronavirus vaccine.  They started initial sign-ups Wednesday and they will continue in the weeks to come.

You’ve probably heard a lot about developing a vaccine to battle the coronavirus … well you could play a role in finding one.  Upstate is looking for a broad range of people to take part, especially those most at risk and those most impacted.

“health care workers, first responders, people who are older, or people who are African American or Latino – these groups we’re seeing emerging in this pandemic as having worse outcomes if they get infected.” 

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Upstate’s Stephen Thomas is Chief of the Infectious Disease Division.  He adds participants have to commit to the study for two years and might suffer side effects, such as headaches, fatigue and discomfort at the site of injection.

“In the students they’ve done so far with this vaccine, these experiences have been described by the volunteers as mild to moderate, and being transient, meaning they lasted a very short period of time.”

It’s a double-blind study, meaning half will get the vaccine and half get a placebo.  That allows researchers to compare groups to see if there’s a benefit.  Thomas encourages people to volunteer … only if they have the right mindset.

“They’re volunteering to advance science, and what they’re doing is really an altruistic thing.  They’re doing it to benefit others because you may get the vaccine, but you also may get placebo.” 


Upstate is one of 40 or so sites taking part … and that’s expected to grow.  Pharma giant Pfizer and German company Biontech hope to have 30-thousand subjects total.  Through animal and limited human testing, the vaccine has already shown promise and that it’s safe.  Thomas hopes this third-phase clinical trial can lead to quick approval of a drug that can prevent virus infection and prevent those who do get infected from getting sick.