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Vaccine journey comes full circle for Tucson's Quality of Life Medical Center

Pat Parris receives the second COVID vaccine injection in Moderna phase 3 trial.
Posted at 10:19 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 01:22:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz.  — The COVID-19 vaccine has come full circle for Quality of Life Medical and Research center in Tucson.

Last fall, QLMC was Moderna's top enrolling site for its vaccine trial.

Now, the clinic near Tucson Medical Center is a vaccination site for the Moderna vaccine.

"We were joking around right when we started and we said wouldn't that be crazy if this was one of the ones that worked," Julie McDowell and Mercedes Sullivan were joking when they said this one year ago, but they were right.

Moderna's COVID vaccine did prove to be one of the ones that worked.

As medical assistants at Quality of Life, they helped with the Tucson portion of Moderna's phase 3 trial.

Nearly one in every 30 participants in the nationwide trial were here in Tucson.

KGUN 9's Pat Parris was one of those volunteers and Julie gave him his second dose of the Moderna vaccine back in September.

By late November, Moderna received emergency approval.

"It feels like we were a small part of something huge," said Sullivan. "It really was emotional when Moderna got approved and stuff like that for the public. It was kind of a crazy feeling. It's like wow we were a part of this."

Moderna even sent QLMC a letter of commendation, for being the nation's top site for the vaccine trial, and for not having any issues throughout the trial.

Ltter of commendation from Moderna

"We printed it our and we each have one," said McDowell.

McDowell and Sullivan are still giving Moderna vaccine shots, but now it's to anyone who wants one. Quality of Life has gone from vaccine trial site to vaccine distribution site.

"It's exciting. I can't express the hard work that's been put into everything and to really see us come through the other side," said QLMC office manager Kim Moon. "Now to know that we can provide it to anybody who wants it, that's big deal."

Just as Quality of Life started ramping up its vaccination site, the demand for the vaccine started to wane. KGUN's exclusive COVID data mapping shows the two-week average of people being vaccinated in Arizona dropped from nearly 21,000 two weeks ago -- to just under 13,000 yesterday.

COVID Mapping.png

"It's slower than we had anticipated," said Moon. "So, we really were ready to have the doors fly open and have everybody running in. We prepared ourselves for such an act, but it's really not the case."

QLMC can give patients the Moderna two-shot vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The clinic is listed on the CDC vaccination finder website.