Laredo is one of three South Texas areas that have been chosen for a clinical research study for a possible vaccine against COVID-19. The decision was announced by Rep. Henry Cuellar during his “Conversation with Cuellar” virtual press conference.
Along with San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, the Gateway City is among the trio of locations that are part of 89 across the United States where Phase 3 of clinical vaccine trials will be taking place.
Moderna announced their vaccine trial sites for the COVID-19 vaccine in many locations across the United States, including Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.
Moderna is a clinical stage biotechnology company working on messenger RNA therapeutics and vaccines, including the first COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enter clinical trials in the U.S.
Congressman Henry Cuellar has been working with the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create a diverse study population of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Hispanic populations have long been underrepresented in medical research despite being disproportionately affected by many of the studied disease, including the COVID-19,” Cuellar said.
During a meeting with Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Cuellar asked them how Moderna is considering the possible effects of the vaccine on Hispanic populations, who have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Cuellar was also interested in the assurance of an equitable distribution of the vaccine when it becomes available.
The NIH is seeking local participants for the trial to “ensure the volunteer pool is as diverse as possible.”
Participating in a COVID-19 Vaccine Trial will entail the following:
Volunteers must provide informed consent to participate in the trial.
Trial volunteers will receive two intramuscular injections approximately 28 days apart.
Participants will be asked to provide a nasopharyngeal swab and a blood sample at an initial screening visit.
Additional blood samples will be asked at specified time points after each vaccination and over the two years following the second vaccination.
Scientists will examine blood samples in the laboratory to detect and quantify immune responses to SARS-CoV-2
According to a press release by Cuellar’s office, as of July 15, at least 140 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in preclinical evaluation and at least 23 candidates are in clinical evaluation worldwide.
There are currently five companies involved in the goal of developing a vaccine for the U.S. by early 2021 including: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna and Pfizer.
During the trials, a lot will be researched and learned about the effectiveness of the vaccine if people with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease volunteer to participate in the trials.
Clinical trials are intended to demonstrate a potential vaccine’s safety or effectiveness for the purposes of FDA approval generally proceed in three successive phases. Moderna’s vaccine is in Phase 3.
Before a vaccine can be approved, licensed and given to people, extensive lab testing is done that can take several years.
Once a vaccine is developed, Cuellar said they expect to have a large supply and hopes to get it to communities that need it most.
“We hope that with this vaccine, within a couple of months, we will have the possibility of good news,” Cuellar said. “We are already preparing how we are going to send the vaccine to different areas.”
Laredo has a total of 5,136 positives and 114 deaths, with most of the recent damage coming in July. Throughout the month, Laredo has seen 70.1% of its total positives reported (3,598) and 78.1% of its deaths (89).
In San Antonio, Bexar County has reported 36,083 cases and 323 deaths. For the Valley, there have been a total of 25,346 cases and 653 deaths.
“Minority communities have been really hit by COVID-19,” Cuellar said. “We have to make sure it is representative of the community.”
The companions that will be conducting the vaccine trials are Laguna Clinical Research Associates in Laredo, Centex Studies in McAllen and Clinical Trials of Texas in San Antonio.
Adults interested in joining this study can visit www.coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org.
Article was originally published on July 28, 2020.