Colorado Coronavirus Vaccine Trials To Begin Later This Summer

Nederland Frozen Dead Guy Bredo Morstoel
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
This caricature of Bredo Morstoel in Nederland outfitted with a face mask. His body is frozen on dry ice in a state of suspended animation in a nearby shed, adorns various buildings and t-shirts around Nederland. He is celebrated every year with a festival called Dead Guy Days. It was canceled this year because of COVID-19.

Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital will begin recruiting Coloradans for a study to test a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

Recruitment for the trial is expected to begin late July or early August. 

The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine focuses on the genetic code of the coronavirus and its spike protein, rather than exposing someone to a small amount of the virus like traditional vaccines do.

The spike protein is what attaches to cells and causes the infection. The idea is that the vaccine would induce an antibody response against the protein that would prevent the virus from infecting cells. This way, the vaccine would stimulate a person’s immune system without exposing them to the actual virus. 

“This is one of more than 15 COVID-19 clinical trials in which UCHealth locations are participating,” said Dr. Margaret E. Reidy, UCHealth’s chief medical officer, in a statement.

Typical vaccine clinical trials take several years. But Dr. Thomas Campbell, an infectious disease physician at the CU School of Medicine and University of Colorado Hospital, said the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine is progressing faster as researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine. 

“It’s a great testament to what can be done when people put their minds to it and work together,” Campbell said in a statement. “I’m certainly hopeful that we’ll have success, but the sad reality is that most vaccine candidates don’t turn out to be successful so we have to be prepared for failures as well.” 

On a national level,  Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette will lead the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee July 21, in part, because of the rapid pace of the race to get a vaccine. 

Officials from the top five pharmaceutical companies — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna and Pfizer — will testify. 

Recruitment will run for two months at the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital — it’s the only hospital in the state for the study.

The trial will look for 1,000 patients who will be monitored for at least a year to see whether the vaccine is safe and whether they contract the virus. Patients will be invited to participate if they qualify through UCHealth's patient portal. 

People who are most at-risk for contracting COVID-19 will be preferred. That includes patients older than 65 and people with certain health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease or chronic kidney disease. 

It also includes those with occupations that put them at a higher risk, such as employees with crowded facilities, health care workers, first responders and people who work in food processing facilities. Other high-risk groups include Black, Indigenous and Latinx patients. In Colorado, COVID-19 is more prevalent among minorities

Patients will be recruited from all over the state, but they will have to go to the University of Colorado hospital for appointments.