UArizona study looks at wearing masks post-vaccination

Pat Parris receives the second COVID vaccine injection in Moderna phase 3 trial.
Posted at 2:35 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 17:35:14-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It has been more than seven months since I received the second of two COVID-19 vaccine injections during the Tucson portion of the Moderna late-stage trial.

So there was a sense of relief learning this week that the vaccine offers protection for more than six months.

That's the findings of report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The studies certainly show that at six months people continue to have robust antibody responses," said Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona Chief of Infectious Diseases. "I don't think you can conclude that's going to be lifelong. Realistically we may need a booster in a year or two or something like that. Only time will tell."

Those of us in the ongoing Moderna trial will continue to have our antibodies tested to see if, and when, a booster is needed.

Meantime, Dr. Connick and the UArizona College of Medicine are beginning a separate study of the Moderna vaccine. The goal of PreventCOVID is to recruit 12,000 students, at 20 universities nationwide, including UArizona. They are trying to determine if masking and social distancing are still needed for those who have been vaccinated.

"We don't know how effective it is at preventing asymptomatic infection," Dr. Connick said. "Because of this, the CDC recommends that even though you've been vaccinated you should still wear a mask and socially distance. This study is going to answer that question."

Dr. Connick is hoping to enroll 700 students for the study.

Half will get the Moderna vaccine, half will receive it in four months. Both groups will be closely watched.

"They will be monitored carefully through the university's testing program," said Dr. Connick. "They will also do nasal swabs every day to look for virus shedding."

What makes this study different than others? It will closely look at how effective the vaccine is at preventing asymptomatic infection.

"This has huge implications for us," according to Connick. "We all want to get back to normal. We want to be able to travel. Corporations want to know if they can have in-person meetings, international travel, and universities want to open up. We need the answers to these questions in order to guide our public policy."

Dr. Connick hopes to know the results of the study in about five months -- about the time UArizona is hoping to fully open.

They are now enrolling students in the study.