You (Yes, You) Can Help Find a Vaccine for COVID-19
You don’t need to have a Ph.D. in infectious diseases to play a role in ending the global pandemic.
If your days have been full of mask wearing, physical distancing and separation from friends and family, you’re hardly alone. Lately it feels like everybody is waiting on a COVID-19 vaccine so in-person living can resume. But a vaccine is only successful if it works for the people and communities who are hardest hit. Think about it: How can scientists be sure a vaccine works for the people who have increased exposure because of their jobs or where they live, if those people are not in the study? Unfortunately, Black people are among the hardest hit because our jobs and where we live often mean we are in contact with more people, so we have greater chances of being exposed to coronavirus. The impact is even greater if we already have health issues. You can help make sure the COVID-19 vaccine works for you—and your community—by signing up for a clinical trial. What’s that, you ask? Find the answers to all your questions, here.
What Is a COVID-19 Clinical Trial, Anyway?
The purpose of a COVID-19 clinical trial is to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus. You might have heard that the multi-phase trial process takes years, but scientists are working seven days a week to make sure data from each phase is reviewed as quickly as possible, and the time period for each phase is being condensed for faster results. The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), a public/private partnership between the companies who have developed the vaccines and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the US National Institutes of Health, is committed to finding as many people from as many backgrounds as possible to join the clinical trials, in order to get the best results.
What Happens During the Study?
As part of a clinical trial, every participant will receive injections. Some will get the vaccine (don’t worry, the vaccines being tested cannot cause COVID-19!), while others will get a placebo (sterile salt water without any active ingredients). Studies require one or two injections, depending on the vaccine being tested. You won’t know which you get and neither will the research staff—it’s what is known as a blinded and randomized study to make sure results are as unbiased and accurate as possible.
After that, you’ll be asked to keep tabs on how you feel in the week following each injection. A staff member will also be in contact with you to see how you’re doing. Otherwise, you’re free to go about your normal business.
To determine if the vaccine works, researchers will look to answer the questions: Does this vaccine prevent new infections? Or, if people become infected, does the vaccine help control the virus so that people don’t develop severe COVID-19 illness? Researchers will compare results from the vaccine and placebo groups. Upon completion of the study, you’ll find out which product you got, and you’ll learn the results (no identifying information about participants will be released). All study volunteers receive compensation for their time.
How Do I Sign Up?
So far, so good? Great. The next step is the most important one. Head to the COVID-19 Prevention Network website - www.PreventCOVID.org - and fill out a short online survey. If you are eligible and there is a study enrolling near you, a staff member at a participating research site will reach out and talk with you about the study they are doing. They will go through all the study details to ensure you understand what’s involved, and to begin the process of seeing if you are eligible to enroll.
Feel free to ask as many questions as you need so you can make an informed decision and decide if joining the study is right for you. For instance, if you decide to join the study, you may be required to come into the research site for about 10 visits over the course of one to two years. (However, you are always free to leave the study at any time if you become uncomfortable or change your mind about participating.)
And that’s it! If you are accepted into the study, you’ll be contacted with further instructions. It might feel a little scary, but then, so is a global pandemic. Playing a role in protecting your family and community from the coronavirus is truly heroic—and makes for a darn good story to tell the grandkids.
Click here to learn more about the COVID-19 Prevention Network and how you can help.
If you need assistance to complete the online survey, please call 866-288-1919.
The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the US National Institutes of Health to respond to the global pandemic. Using the infectious disease expertise of their existing research networks and global partners, NIAID has directed the networks to address the pressing need for vaccines and monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.