COVID-19: Renowned scientist enters clinical trial

| Written by Susan Gammon
Carl Ware getting vaccinated

Meet Carl Ware, Ph.D., director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at Sanford Burnham Prebys. After a career of studying how viruses wreak havoc on our health, he now becomes a “subject” in a COVID-19 clinical trial. 

What inspired you to enroll in a COVID-19 clinical trial?
I’m an immunologist working on coronaviruses. I understand the science of vaccines and the protection provided against infections. I also know how important clinical trials are to developing safe and effective vaccines. I trust the science, so I stepped up to volunteer for the vaccine trial. Who better than an immunologist to be part of this grand experiment? 

Are you nervous? 
Excited is more accurate.

Do you know which vaccine you’re getting?
Yes, the RNA-based vaccine by Moderna. It’s not a live virus! The vaccine uses a small part of the virus that allows the virus to attach to lung cells. To cause disease, a virus must replicate inside a cell. The infected cell dies, releasing large numbers of new viruses. The progeny virus infects more lung cells, producing more virus that reaches levels that are easily spread to other people. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to block the virus from entering and replicating in the lung cells, stopping the infection and spread to other persons.

How many people are in the trial?
About 30,000 people will participate. The volunteers are placed into two groups receiving either the vaccine or a placebo. The study is “blinded,” so I don’t know which group I’m in, but I’m hoping it’s not the placebo group. The preliminary tests of this new vaccine indicate it is safe and stimulates the immune system. However, proof of safety and effectiveness requires a large number of volunteers. More volunteers are needed to complete the goal of 30,000. 

How will you be evaluated during the trial? 
Following the first injection, I will report my symptoms every night for a week using a simple, very cool app on my cell phone. A month later, I will receive a booster and follow the same procedure with the phone app. I have two more visits to the site at six months and a year to determine if the vaccine stimulated long-lasting immunity.

How will it be determined if the vaccine works?
All sorts of tests will be used to measure the response of my immune system. No worries, volunteers in the trial will not be infected with the virus!

The trial is open to anyone who wants to participate, especially those persons most vulnerable, with serious diseases; front-line and essential workers; those over 65, Black and Latinx persons, and people with other health risks. There are several test centers around the San Diego area. More information on volunteering is at eStudySite.

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