Black Retiree Among First To Participate In COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

UCHealth is one of 89 research sites across the country in Phase III study trials of the Moderna vaccine, called the mRNA-1273 trial. The goal is to enroll 30,000 study subjects. Half get a placebo, the other half get the vaccine.

“If it’s effective and safe, then it could be a game changer,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, infectious disease physician and principal investigator for the study at UCHealth.

Researchers at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital have begun testing a promising COVID-19 vaccine on qualified participants. They say, if it works, the Moderna vaccine could be a game changer for the pandemic.

They plan to recruit up to 1,000 patients. An African-American man, who is one of the first to enroll, feels getting involved in his civic duty.

“Throughout history people have volunteered for various tests, and I think we need to pay it forward,” said Michael Rouse of Central Park.

The 65-year-old retiree is doing just that.

“The virus is here, it’s not going anywhere,” Rouse told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

He was quick to volunteer, prompted, in part, by a call for people of color to enroll in the research.

“The Black community is getting hit extremely hard by this, and it’s extremely important that older African Americans step up so younger African Americans can survive,” he said.

He understands minorities reluctance to participate.

“There have been abuses in the past,” Campbell said, “what we would consider to be unethical experimentation.”

“That was in the past. We have to have faith that the scientists now, the doctors now, are going to take care of all off us,” said Rouse.

He had his first shot Aug. 20.

“I feel perfectly fine, and I’ve had the shot for almost a week,” he said.

Now, he is expected to continue his daily routines.

“I was told ‘Don’t go out looking for the virus. It’s out there. It will find you,’” he explained.

Rouse will get a second shot 28 days after the first. Then it’s wait and see. He is not concerned, just happy to contribute. Participants will be monitored for at least a year to determine the vaccine’s safety and whether they contract COVID-19.

The experts say, clinical trials typically take several years and proceed in sequential order, but the mRNA-1273 trial is proceeding far more rapidly as researchers around the world race to develop a successful vaccine.

However, in a July 9 release announcing the trial, Campbell warned that setbacks are possible.

“I’m elated by the pace of progress. It’s really unheard of for any viral infection to have a vaccine progress at this rate,” Campbell said. “It’s a great testament to what can be done when people put their minds to it and work together. I’m certainly hopeful that we’ll have success, but the sad reality is that most vaccine candidates don’t turn out to be successful so we have to be prepared for failures as well.”

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital is the only hospital in Colorado for this study.

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