Vaccine update: Phase III AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trials to begin in Chicago next week

Doctors are looking for a diverse group of volunteers
CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is a push for participants needed for potentially life-saving research as a new phase of COVID-19 vaccine trials are set to begin in Chicago this month -- with some beginning as soon as next week.

Phase three trials of the new AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will begin in the coming days, and now doctors at Rush Hospital, Cook County Health and Northwestern Medicine are looking for a diverse group of volunteers.

"There is a signal that it can work," said Dr. Beverly Sha, with Rush Hospital's Division of Infectious Disease and leader of their vaccine trial.

The Moderna vaccine, as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine, are both being tested in Chicago and are said to show some promise in earlier trials for protection against COVID-19.

"We're really trying to assess, does it prevent infection?" Sha said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses DNA from the spike protein on the virus' surface to create an immune response and hopefully develop protective antibodies, Sha explained.

"The hope is that by early next year we will have some data, one way or another," said Dr. Temitope Oyedele, vaccine investigator at Cook County Health Systems.

Doctors and health advocates said having a diverse group of volunteers is key.

"We do want this trial to be very diverse. We live in a diverse country, and we want this trial to reflect that," Oyedele said. "It is important that we have a vaccine that is effective for everyone."

That's why West Side community leader Emma Lozano said she is working to get Black and Latino candidates involved.

"You want a vaccine that's going to work across the board ... all communities," Lozano said. "We don't just want to target it to one community, and it's always been the privileged community. We want to make sure that we are involved in all aspects."

And for those questioning whether the speed of the vaccine process will impact the final results, Sha said to keep the faith.

"It is called Operation Warp Speed, but it's not like we're skipping any of the steps from A to Z to get an effective vaccine," she said. "It's just that we are moving the process through as quickly as possible trying to cut as much red tape that is unnecessary."

You can sign up for the AstraZeneca trial by visiting the Coronavirus Prevention Network website.

Those who are interested in participating in the Rush trial can email ID_Research_COVID19Vaccine@Rush.eduor call (312) 563-1345 for more information.
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