TUCSON, Ariz. — For the country to rebound from the pandemic, most health experts agree a vaccine is needed.
A promising COVID-19 vaccine trial has begun here in Tucson. KGUN 9 anchor Pat Parris was one of the first in southern Arizona to receive the vaccine this week.
"We hope by the end of this year, by the late fall or early winter, that we will know whether the vaccine is safe and effective," NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week.
The National Institute of Health is backing Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine trials, which are now underway across the country.
This week, Quality of Life Medical & Research Center in Tucson began its portion of the trial.
Here is how it works.
Participants like KGUN's Pat Parris, take a COVID-19 test to make sure they do not already have the virus. Blood is drawn to check for antibodies, to see if they have had the coronavirus in the past.
Then it's onto the vaccine. It is a double-blind study. Half of the participants are receiving the vaccine, the other half a placebo.
Parris experienced some soreness in the injection site. According to the head of the Tucson trial, that is to be expected.
"A little discomfort which is maybe to be expected in some cases," said Dr. Jack McGettigan. "I know when I've gotten a flu shot I've had the same thing. I'm hoping that will be some of the worst experiences that people have."
The next step for participants like Parris is a nightly check to see if they have any side effects, using an app. It keeps tabs of temperature, discomfort and even unexpected stronger reactions that need medical attention.
"It's all safety at this point, and efficacy," McGettigan said. "The app that you're working with is just looking to capture any adverse effects you might have. When you do 30,000 subjects, that's a lot different than doing hundreds. Some things may come out that you're not expecting."
But Dr. McGettigan says he is confident in this vaccine.
In 4 weeks, participants will receive a second dose of the vaccine. Their blood will be checked for the development of antibodies to the virus. That's how clinicians will know the effectiveness of the vaccine.
There is still room for more "medical heroes" as Dr. McGettigan calls his participants. He is encouraging frontline workers and first responders to apply, as well as groups hit hard by the virus like Latinos and Native Americans.
Email the study at Covid19@QLMC.com to inquire about a spot in the vaccine trial.