Soon enough, UF students will not only qualify for their long-awaited COVID-19 vaccinations, but can opt into a clinical study to help scientists learn more about how well they work.
The PreventCOVIDU study is a Moderna-funded project by the COVID-19 Prevention Network to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness at 22 U.S. universities, including UF. UF is aiming for more than 1,000 of its own students ages 18 to 26 to participate in the study as a part of almost 12,000 university students from across the country.
Everyone involved will be compensated for visit lengths, procedures and travel expenses, according to Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, the principal investigator of the UF section of the study. Compensation could fall between $700 and $900, he said. Participants cannot have previously tested positive or received a vaccine, said Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the director of UF’s Screen, Test & Protect program.
The goal of the research is to see if those who have been vaccinated can still spread the virus, Lauzardo said. People in their 20’s to 40’s are the biggest asymptomatic and symptomatic spreaders, he said. A protected college-aged group is a prime demographic to monitor for any post-vaccine transmission.
Lauzardo said UF will promote the study on social media in the coming days. The study’s website offers a place for eligible students to apply by leaving their name, phone number and email address.
Participants will be randomized into two groups in the project: one will receive the vaccine when the study begins and be monitored for four months, Lauzardo said. The other will receive it at a later date and only be monitored for a few weeks which is enough comparative data, Cherabuddi said.
The groups will need to check into campus visits with Cherabuddi for two Moderna doses, biweekly saliva tests, self-collected nasal swabs and three blood samples, Cherabuddi said.
Every student who meets the criteria and consents to the study will be accepted until UF reaches its target of more than 1,000 recruits and national enrollment caps at an about 12,000 total, Cherabuddi wrote in an email.
Unlike clinical trials seen over the summer for the developing vaccines where placebos were implemented, all participants will receive the real vaccine, Lauzardo said.
The study also asks participants to bring in a total of about 25,000 voluntary close-contact members such as roommates or co-workers, or about two each. Those close contacts will need to attend their university’s protocol screenings and daily questionnaires. If they or the main participant tests positive for COVID-19, the close contacts will have to give two blood samples and daily nasal swabs for two weeks.
Having a four-month block and close contact tracing will allow the researchers to determine when participants may spread low amounts of the virus, for how long and if it affects the people around them in day-to-day activities, Cherabuddi said.
“You can contribute in a great way,” Cherabuddi said. “Join this historic study. Get us some concrete answers about how we can get back to normalcy and life prior to the pandemic.”
Contact Manny Rea at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ReaManny.
Manny Rea is a journalism sophomore and the current health reporter for The Alligator. He worked as a copy editor in his freshman year before moving over to the Avenue in summer 2020. He likes to listen to dollar-bin records and read comics, and he is patiently waiting to go back to movies and concerts.