Tucson clinic celebrates early Moderna COVID vaccine trial numbers

Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 17, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. — The announcement of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine being nearly 95% effective has a Tucson clinic celebrating.

One in every 30 participants in the phase three trial is enrolled at Quality of Life & Medical Research Center on the east side.

"Yeah, a lot of high fives," according to Dr. Jack McGettigan.

He is describing the moment his Quality of Life clinic learned about the early data, that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective.

"It was unbelievable to me," said McGettigan. "We were hoping 50% or more. Heard about Pfizer's results, which were amazing. To top that, yeah."

"Exciting, very exciting," said Yvonne De Los Reyes, the clinical research coordinator.

Related: Meet the coordinator running the Tucson COVID-19 vaccine trial

She and the Quality of Life staff worked seven days a week, for months, enrolling nearly a thousand patients in the Moderna trial.

"The long hours, all the weekends, the sleepless nights of worrying how we're going to get it done," recalled De Los Reyes. "Here we are, it's done. All worth it."

Through that hard work, Tucson ended up as the top enrolling clinic in the Moderna trial of 30,000 participants nationwide.

"Tucson stepped up, better than any city in the country," said McGettigan. "We need to all be very proud of what Tucson did."

I am one of those proud volunteers. I received both of the vaccine shots, 28 days apart.

I had mild symptoms of muscle aches and fatigue, similar to what others reported. While I don't know for sure, it's likely I received the vaccine.

Once the FDA gives emergency approval, it is expected the half of the participants who received a placebo, will then receive the vaccine.

"My belief all along has been that that's a group that will be treated very fairly going forward," Dr. McGettigan said. "They're the ones who stuck their neck out, so to speak."

Dr. Anthony Fauci has commended Quality of Life for its work recruiting a high percentage of participants from the minority community, around 40%.

Yvonne is proud to help sign up so many in Tucson's Latino community. As proud as her school-aged kids are of their mom, for helping find a potential solution to the pandemic.

"They're really excited," De Los Reyes said. "They're like hurry up and find a cure so we can go back to school."

Moderna could apply for emergency approval from the FDA by the end of the month. Once they have approval, the CDC and Operation Warp Speed will kick in, distributing the vaccine.

Quality of Life Medical & Research Center is about to begin another high-profile vaccine trial. It is currently looking for volunteers.