COVID-19 vaccines seem to do a great job of protecting people from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
But one important question remains with the long-term control of the epidemic. Can vaccinated people have mild or asymptomatic infections and transmit the virus to others?
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a number of other institutions are now hoping to find the answer with the help of thousands of college students across the country, including the University of Washington.
A major study released Friday called Prevent COVID U aims to enroll 12,000 students in 21 colleges, universities and universities for five months. Half of young people aged 18-26 will receive the Moderna vaccine immediately. The rest will be received in four months.
All participants will keep electronic diaries, clean their noses every day, and provide regular blood samples. The idea is to detect even low levels of coronavirus in the new novel as soon as they appear and compare the vaccinated to unvaccinated groups.
More than 25,000 roommates, friends, and other close contacts are also asked to agree by answering weekly questionnaires and taking nasal swabs daily to see if they are catching the virus.
“Such a study has never been done before,” said Dr. Helen Chu, a UW medical virologist who will gather 600 to 1,000 students locally to analyze their samples.
The result will help determine when life can truly return to normal, including vaccinated people who should continue to wear masks, says Dr. Larry Corey, Fred Hutch, a virologist and co-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Testing Network, which coordinates the work.
“It simply came to our notice then. “It affects the behavior of the stadium, the big gatherings, the interactions with people outside your family,” he said. “There is also a sense of personal responsibility as to whether you can inadvertently transmit a virus that can be very harmful to others.”
The more effective the vaccines are at eliminating the asymptomatic spread, the sooner the virus will return to control. The program is timely to better understand new versions that are spreading rapidly and may be less susceptible to existing vaccines, Corey added.
College universities provide an ideal environment for this type of study, Chu said. Students often live in dormitories, in other congregations, and communicate more than adults. They are at high risk of infecting the novel coronavirus and spreading it to others, even though their own symptoms may be mild or non-existent.
UW has not returned to large-scale in-person study, but it has already experienced multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in dormitories among young Greeks.
A follow-up study by The New York Times estimated more than 397,000 infections at college universities that reopened in the fall of 2020. Most new infections are now occurring in younger people, a trend that began last spring when older people were vaccinated. ,
Like all research studies, it is entirely voluntary, but Corey hopes the support will be great. Many young people are not yet eligible for the vaccine, so getting staff can be a stimulus for some. Volunteers will also be entitled to $ 900 in compensation.
However, those who are randomly assigned to the control group will not receive their first vaccine by the end of July. This can be disruptive, as President Joseph Ozef Biden has called on states to open vaccine queues for all 16-year-olds by May 1.
“We are looking for people who want to help answer this question, to consider it quite possible that they will make (some sacrifices),” said Corey.
Daily sampling among people who are committed to the study will allow them to track infections in unprecedented detail as they develop, helping to fill gaps in the spread of the virus. Genetic sequencing will help trace infectious pathways and identify viral variants.
There are already some strong indications that vaccines can prevent asymptomatic infection և viral transmission. says Angela Rasmussen, a Seattle-based virologist at Seattle University’s Center for World Health Science and Safety at Oortown University, who is not involved in the new project.
In Israel, which has the highest vaccine coverage in the world, there has been a steady decline in transmission, although severe blockades could also play a role, he said. An analysis of health care workers in the UK has suggested such an effect, but no analysis has yet been performed to prevent COVID U scale և type:.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Rasmussen said. “It is really nice to see such a large study that will directly address the issue.”
Although specific to the Moderna vaccine, the results are likely to be somewhat generalizable to other vaccines, he added. Pfizer uses the same messenger RNA technology; all vaccines rely on the same general approach to the stem protein that the virus uses to attach and infect human cells.
The study is funded by about $ 90 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Other institutions involved include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deacon Medical Center, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Cole said the college’s 21 universities have been reopened primarily for in-person teaching, with a variety of students selected to reflect different geographical areas where different options can be circulated. These include the University of Texas A&M from Kingsville to the Universities of Florida, Maryland, Kentucky and Arizona. Morhaus School of Medicine in Atlanta և Charles R. Dru University of Medicine and Science has historically been included in the list of SS schools.
The first students were vaccinated Thursday at Boulder University in Colorado.
Chu expects to start recruiting at UW in a few days, and he hopes the results will show that the vaccine can prevent most “silent” infections.
“It probably won’t bring it to zero,” he said. “I think the vaccine will significantly reduce the asymptomatic infection, but it is the experience that will prove it.”
More information is available at preventcovidu.org.