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Columbia VA chosen to start clinical trial for coronavirus vaccine

The Columbia VA is looking for veterans around 40-year-old or older. The Columbia VA is one out of 17 other VA's selected for the clinical trial.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Columbia VA is looking for veterans to participate in their COVID-19 clinical trial.

One of tools being used to fight the coronavirus is vaccines. Companies have been working through trials to find out if their vaccine is safe and effective enough to use to battle COVID-19.

Christopher Wood, the Executive Director of the Dorn Research Institute, says the Columbia VA is extremely excited to be a site for the Janssen COVID-19 trial.

"We are starting to enroll volunteers within the next seven to ten days," said Wood. "We hope to have three to five volunteers roughly everyday but have plans to adjust that as necessary."

The vaccine is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

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The trial will take place over two years and will include different visits through telehealth or in-person. The visits will include nasal swabs, getting blood drawn, and other identifications of COVID-19 symptoms.

The first year will be to study the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. The following year, they will monitor to see if the vaccine is able to prevent infection, and how long it lasts.  

The VA received a request to be a site for this clinical trial.

"We have a very diverse patient population and feel that we'll have a good potential for volunteers for this study," explained Wood. "Those volunteers will be veterans. They need to be veterans and they need to be in good health with no underlying conditions that would be affected by COVID-19."

Wood went onto say, "Because COVID-19 is affecting certain minorities in particular, we feel like we have a good population of those minorities to be able to test the vaccine so that we can check safety and also effectiveness in those populations that are affected by the COVID-19."

17 other VA's across the country are taking part in the trial. The trial is hoping to have between 30,000 and 60,000 people participate. 

People who take part in the trial will receive either the vaccine or a placebo. The placebo is a sodium chloride solution, and no one will know which they received since the clinical study is a blind study. 

Wood says one of the major benefits of this vaccine is that it can be stored at a warmer temperature than others. As a result, it's much easier to transport the vaccine instead of finding something colder which could make the vaccine more widespread. 

"I'm really excited about it. I think one of the big benefits of this vaccine is that it is a single injection compared to some of the others," said Wood. "I'm hopeful but at the same time we need to see the results and see if this is effective and of course safe."

The Columbia VA is looking for veterans around 40-year-old or older. Veterans who are interested in learning more about the trial will need to contact one of the research coordinators, Autumn Watkins. People can call 803-776-4000 ext. 4083.

There will be a screening process to see if patients meet the criteria to take part in the trial.

According to the Columbia VA's website, volunteers who take part in the study will receive compensation for travel and time-related expenses. There is no cost to take part in the clinical trial.

For more information on the clinical trial, click here.

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