With the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine heating up, clinical studies around the U.S are looking for willing participants to help them complete various stages of their research. Tech conglomerates Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax are all in various stages of human trials, each of which requires hundreds of volunteers. So how does one sign up for a vaccine trial?
While the words “scientific trial” may bring up images of mad scientists, the average clinical study is an important part of the vaccine development process. After methods prove hopeful in laboratories, researchers then perform several detailed studies with humans, to perfect the product. To speed up trial involvement for a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. National Institute of Health has launched an online public network that connects possible volunteers with hundreds of research facilities across the U.S.
But a lot still has to happen before scientists can stick you with a needle. Possible volunteers must be 18 years or older, and must fill out a volunteer screening history. Signing up for the database takes less than 10 minutes, and will automatically connect users with the trial closest to them.
One deemed legally eligible, researchers must determine if the volunteer understands the type of study. The scientists in charge will reach out to volunteers with information surrounding the specific studies and will require an “informed decision.” To determine medical eligibility, staff might require certain initial tests like physical exams or blood samples.
While the expected number of necessary volunteers has fluctuated since the public program was announced, the trials will need anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 participants, according to CNN.
How long are trials running?
While the vaccine development process can seem quick, participating in a clinical trial rarely is.
Participants are urged to think very carefully about their level of commitment, as certain trials take longer and require active lab visits and regulations like lifestyle and environment changes. Specific studies, especially those involving active research sites, can require a number of visits extending across 1-2 years or more.
Phase 1 clinical studies test the safety behind vaccines and can take up to 18 months for experiments to resolve, while Phases 2, 2b, 3, and 4 test the products’ delivery, effectiveness, variable uses, and data respectively, and can last as long as 5 years.
Even after the novel coronavirus outbreak dies down, researchers will continue to study both the long-term effects of the disease and whatever vaccine is developed and widely adopted.
What are the dangers?
As clinical studies involve small medical procedures, there are dangers to any trial you take place in. However, for those worried, contracting coronavirus is not one of them. None of the clinical studies actively taking volunteers are “challenge” studies, meaning that while participants may be exposed to COVID-19 in their daily lives, they will not be exposed in the studies. None of the current vaccines hold “any live or killed virus” and they “cannot cause SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 illness,” according to the Coronavirus Prevention Network.
Current research sites are distributed throughout the U.S, but they are most densely located on the western and eastern seaboard, with added locations in coronavirus hotspots like Texas and Florida. To find out more information and trials located close by, volunteers can visit the Coronavirus Prevention Network.
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