First Dose At UC Health In National COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Administered

Aug 25, 2020

Updated Aug. 26 at 4:50 p.m.

The University of Cincinnati and UC Health report the first dose in its clinical trial of a possible COVID-19 vaccine has been administered. The first dose in the Moderna mRNA-1273 study in the Cincinnati area was administered by New Horizons Clinical Research in Blue Ash in July.

The study aims to involve 30,000 participants nationally at about 90 sites, including 500 people at UC and several hundred at New Horizons, a clinical research facility. New Horizons didn't wish to be interviewed but tells WVXU it started the trial July 28 and has administered doses to more than 300 patients.

The dose was administered by syringe and study participants will receive a second dose in about a month. This is a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, meaning no one (except the people running the trial) knows whether a participant is receiving the vaccine or a placebo.

"The COVE Trial places Cincinnati squarely on the cutting edge of new scientific discoveries and allows our citizens to take action and help us find a preventive vaccine for COVID-19," says Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, co-investigator and medical director of the study, and a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

The COVID-19 vaccine candidate known as mRNA-1273 is made by the U.S. biotech company Moderna and developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. In July, it entered Phase 3 efficacy testing, and it is designed to see if the vaccine actually prevents disease.

A 37-year-old IT professional and father named Jarelle Marshall is the first UC patient to receive a dose.

"We're all in this together," Marshall says in a statement. "We all want to get things back open and get back to as normal as possible. I try to always teach my son to walk the walk. You can say all these things and tell everybody something but to actually walk the walk and do what you say you're going to do, and if you're going to try to help people, you just do it."

Marshall and the other participants will keep a daily diary of their symptoms, and meet with UC Health clinicians (telehealth and clinic visits) for two years.

Here's how NPR science correspondent Joe Palca describes the candidate vaccine:

The Moderna vaccine is a new kind of vaccine based on the genetic material that makes up the coronavirus. Snippets of RNA (a chemical cousin of DNA) are enclosed in a nano-capsule and injected into someone's arm. The RNA contains instructions to make a protein found of the outer surface of the coronavirus. This protein is what stimulates the immune system to make antibodies against the virus. The idea is that if this harmless protein in the vaccine can generate those antibodies, then if the vaccinated individual is exposed to the virus, their immune system will be able to fight it off.

UC Health points out this makes mRNA-1273 different from conventional vaccines, which generally use a small portion of live virus or antigen to create a immune response.

UC Health is enrolling participants. You must be at least 18 years old with no known history of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection. Patients who are at higher risk because of certain pre-existing conditions will be included in the study. More information about how to enroll can be found here.

Meanwhile, hospitals across the Tri-State continue to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. WVXU's Ann Thompson reported earlier this month on how hospitals are cutting costs.

"We also implemented pay reductions for senior leaders and asked departments to reduce overall labor expenses by at least 20 percent, including the use of paid and unpaid time off," spokeswoman Amanda Nageleisen told WVXU.

UC Health sent a memo to employees and clinicians Tuesday laying out a voluntary separation program for non-clinical employees in order to save money.

"This program is intended to help ensure a stable, stronger future for UC Health and for our community," writes Clarence Pauley, senior vice president and chief human resources officer. "It also allows our employees the opportunity to determine what is best for them and their families during this unique time. We hope that the Voluntary Separation Program will provide some relief to employees who may be dealing with difficult work/life balance decisions or are nearing a planned retirement."

This story has been updated to reflect that New Horizons in Blue Ash is also a test site for this candidate vaccine and it administered its first doses in July.