Meet the coordinator running the Tucson COVID-19 vaccine trial

Posted at 3:43 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 20:24:30-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — As part of the federal government's "Operation Warp Speed," the Tucson clinic conducting part of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine trial is now accelerating the number of patients it is enrolling.

The person coordinating this groundbreaking study is Yvonne De Los Reyes.

In her 15th year with Quality of Life Medical & Research Centers, De Los Reyes calls it the most important study of her career.

"People are losing their life every day," said De Los Reyes. "People are losing loved ones. At some point, at the end of this trial, hopefully we'll make an impact on people's lives, the world."

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In the past two weeks, she has set up the vaccine trial at QLMC on the east side of Tucson. It is a huge undertaking.

De Los Reyes is in charge of recruiting participants, coordinating staff, lab tests, collecting the data, plus lots of paperwork to document each patient.

"And it's got to be precise," said De Los Reyes.

Quality of Life continues to ask for volunteers, especially Latinos and Native Americans. Those are groups who have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

More than 3,000 people have already volunteered in Tucson.

De Los Reyes says if you haven't been contacted yet, have patience.

"We're going to eventually get to them," she said. "But we also want to make sure the integrity of the study is being conducted properly."

National news reports this week say enrolling participants in Moderna's trial at the nearly 90 clinics across the country, has been slower than expected.

But QLMC already has more than 200 people enrolled, including KGUN 9 Anchor Pat Parris. He received the first of two injections last week.

QLMC is enrolling an additional 25 participants each day.

They'll soon pass Moderna's goal of 300 participants screened and randomized into the Tucson portion of the clinic trial.

But Dr. Jack McGettigan, the owner of QLMC, wants a thousand participants. A goal shared by Yvonne.

"That's the overall goal," she said. "It's a lot of patients, a lot of work, but at the end of the day it'll be worth it."

De Los Reyes says participants are reporting very little in the way of reactions to the first dose. A second dose is given 28 days later.

Two other major pharmaceutical companies are about to begin clinical trials in the United States. De Los Reyes is hopeful Quality of Life Medical & Research will also run those trials in Tucson.