One important tool to help control the COVID-19 pandemic is the development and implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccines. Critical to that plan is the final stage (Phase III) of testing of vaccines for safety and efficacy; that is, the vaccine’s ability to safely prevent illness caused by the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus. Progress on vaccine development is being tracked comprehensively. The NY Times Coronavirus Tracker is one source that explains all the vaccines and their progress (including many not being tested in the USA).

Novel Coronavirus

Several vaccines in the United States have now reached this final, or Phase III, of testing. These are very large studies and each will enroll around 30,000 volunteers. The first study, led by Moderna, began enrollment of volunteers on July 27, 2020. There is hope that the next study, led by Astra-Zeneca, will start in mid-August, 2020. Other vaccines by Pfizer, Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline, Novovax, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen are expected to follow over the next few months.

All of these Phase III trials will be harmonized with a closely aligned study design and schedule. Volunteers are needed for all of these trials, especially individuals with health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID disease and/or individuals with a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 (such as workers in specific jobs, for example health care settings, meat packing plants). Persons over 65 years of age are welcome and encouraged to participate. Studies are purposefully reaching out to all populations to be sure all person have access to participating, including and especially African-American, Native American and LatinX communities.

Most of these studies will have two vaccines, one month apart. They will require a several study visits after the two vaccinations, and a few phone calls. The entire span of each study is two years.

There are a lot of important steps in the decision to participate in a clinical study of any kind. This decision should never be taken lightly. Any volunteer will receive extensive instruction (the Informed Consent process) so that they can make this decision carefully and after receiving and weighing all of the information, risks and benefits.

Volunteers interested in participating in a COVID-19 clinical trial in the United States are encouraged to state their interest by registering with the Coronavirus Prevention Network's national registry. Note that registering is NOT a commitment to participate. It is only a way to make the sites performing the clinical trials aware of your interest so that they would be able to reach out to you if you are eligible. 

The U.S. government has invested in the development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines in an unprecedented time-saving approach that allows the vaccines to be manufactured at the same time the vaccines are being studied. Although this approach means that many vaccines will not end up being used (if found unsafe or ineffective), this approach allows effective and safe vaccines to be available much more quickly once they have been identified. See the latest updates on the U.S. plan.