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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

UCHealth Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Trial In Northern Colorado

UCHealth COVID Vaccine Trial Noco_1.8.1.T.jpg
Courtesy of UCHealth
Two members of UCHealth's clinical research program prepare for the launch of the hospital's vaccine trial in Loveland.

UCHealth has begun its second large-scale, human trial aimed at developing a vaccine for COVID-19, the hospital system said on Thursday.

The trial, which will test drug-maker AstraZeneca’s main vaccine candidate, will last around two years and recruit residents from communities across Northern Colorado. It’s part of a national effort to study the efficacy of the vaccine on more than 30,000 adults. Early results could help the company gain emergency approval from federal regulators and, ultimately, clear the pathway to distribute a vaccine to the public.

Dr. Gary Luckason, medical director of UCHealth’s clinical research program in Northern Colorado, said researchers want to enroll between 1,500 to 2,000 local participants between now and Thanksgiving. The group is mainly looking for workers in professions that carry a greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus, including medical workers, grocery store clerks and first responders.

In the trial, two out of three participants will receive a vaccine. The other third will receive a placebo injection. The large population size, Luckason said, will help researchers determine if those who do receive the vaccine develop immunity.

“We don’t have a lot of medicines that treat (COVID-19),” Luckason said. “So the goal for us to get back to normal life is to protect you so you don’t get the disease and that’s the goal of a vaccine.”

The AstraZeneca trial is one of many moving forward at breakneck speed. At least 11 candidates, including AstraZeneca’s, have entered “phase 3” clinical trials, according to a vaccine tracker published by The New York Times. Phase 3 denotes large-scale, human testing. It’s the final phase before regulators can grant emergency authorization to drug makers.

It’s still unclear when a vaccine will be widely available to the public. But Colorado has already started preparing for how it will be distributed.

UCHealth launched enrollment in Colorado for another COVID-19 vaccine trial, by drug-maker Moderna, this summer. The AstraZeneca trial in Northern Colorado was set to take place earlier this fall, but was delayed after an “unexplained illness” appeared in a participant of a similar trial taking place in the United Kingdom.

The Food and Drug Administration reviewed the incident and, last week, gave the company permission to proceed with more trials.

The trial in Northern Colorado will mainly take place at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. Participants must be pre-screened online before enrolling.

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