Rebooting COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Seeks Volunteer Participants at 3 Los Angeles Sites

The U.S. portion of the trial had been paused for seven weeks.

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It may be months before a COVID-19 vaccine becomes publicly available, but hundreds in the Los Angeles area can receive a candidate vaccine during a trial that has been cleared to resume and is now seeking participants.

In all, USC Keck, Lundquist Institute, and UCLA Westwood plan to enroll 1,250 participants--though some will randomly be placed in the control group and not receive the trial vaccine.

The global trial of the AstraZeneca candidate, developed with Oxford University, was paused early in September after a participant in the United Kingdom took ill. That came just days after Southern California's first four participants had received vaccinations in Torrance at the Lundquist Institute on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. USC Keck and UCLA Westwood had yet to begin enrolling participants.

After an investigation, the United Kingdom approved the AstraZeneca trial quickly to resume. But in the United States, the FDA did not give approval until October 23.

Enrollment of the 250 participants for the UCLA Westwood portion will focus on seeking individuals in demographics affected "disproportionately harshly" by the pandemic, said Keith Norris, MD, Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

"So we're going to be looking at communities of color, elderly, essential workers and frontline workers," Dr. Norris said.

The AstraZeneca candidate is among those that have reached third and final phase of trials. Worldwide, 213 vaccines are in development or trial, according to the Milken Institute COVID-19 Treatment and Vaccine Tracker.

The paused third phase trial for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has also received permission to resume. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech are seen as closest to applying for FDA emergency use authorization, though this week Pfizer revealed that the data and safety monitoring board for its trial has not yet completed an interim efficacy analysis.

Another candidate, from Southern California based ImmunityBio and Nantkwest, began its first phase trial last week in Newport Beach at Hoag Hospital.

Los Angeles County Public Health urged residents to consider participating in vaccine trials.

"The truth is that its very important that the group of individuals who participate in these studies be as diverse as possible, so we really have the information to make good decisions," said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD., the department's chief medical officer.

Selected participants will receive two injections four weeks apart, and then need to return for periodic followups over the next two years. The study provides compensation for time and travel expenses.

Those interested in being considered can can submit an application through the website, HelpStopCovid.LA.

Whether any of the vaccine candidates will be effective enough to offer complete immunity or eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus is yet to be determined. That's the goal, but Dr. Norris said it is possible that, as with annual flu shots, periodically we will also need to update COVID vaccination.

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