UM School of Medicine selected as part of national initiative to test potential COVID-19 vaccines

MIAMI (WSVN) - The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has been selected to be part of the effort in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The school has been selected to be part of the National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network to launch clinical trials to test potential vaccines.

The initiative, which will be led by infectious diseases expert Susanne Doblecki-Lewis is part of a large scale study established by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a tremendous impact in South Florida and across the world,” Doblecki-Lewis said. “We are testing vaccines with the goal of finding a safe and effective way to halt the spread of the virus. The only way to do that is to be in a place where there are ongoing infections.”

The first Phase 3 clinical trial that will be conducted will test the vaccine developed by NIAID scientists at the biotechnology company Moderna.

“This is the first one that has made it through the safety testing phases and is ready to test,” Doblecki-Lewis said. “There are several others that are coming rather quickly through the pipeline.”

UM plans to enroll 1,000 volunteers in South Florida in that clinical trial, which is expected to begin this summer.

“Nationwide, it will be 30,000 people who will be enrolled in the trial,” Doblecki-Lewis said. “Locally, we are going to enroll 1,000 people. We will be looking at how it works and for who it works and also any side effects, and we’ll follow everyone, whether they receive a vaccine or a placebo for two years.”

Volunteers will need to be at least 18 years old and can register to participate through an online registry. Using community outreach and mobile operations, Miller School clinical researchers plan to recruit young and older adults, including groups with existing co-morbidities.

“Our goal here is to shape our volunteer populations who really reflect the diversity of South Florida and the diversity of people who are affected by coronavirus,” Doblecki-Lewis said.

Researchers will see if one vaccine works best or if more than one should be available to the public, and that’s why they want to recruit a wide range of people for the trial.

“We are committed to engaging people who represent the range of residents impacted by COVID-19 in South Florida by gender, age, race, and ethnicity, as well as those who are particularly at-risk because of medical conditions,” said Doblecki-Lewis. “This is how we will help ensure that any vaccine that is developed will be relevant for those who could benefit most from it.”

The clinical trial is expected to begin at the end of July.

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