Another coronavirus vaccine trial comes to Louisiana: Ochsner to test Pfizer vaccine – NOLA.com

As research for a coronavirus vaccine continues to ramp up worldwide, more and more clinical trials are coming to Louisiana.

The latest is being tested by Pfizer; Ochsner Health System officials announced Friday that they would be among the 120 sites around the world doing clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine the pharmaceutical giant has in the works. Metairie-based Benchmark Research is also studying the vaccine.

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Dr. Julia Garcia-Diaz, Ochsner’s director of clinical infectious disease research, said she expects to enroll between 200 and 300 participants in the clinical trial. She said Ochsner already has a long list of patients who have expressed interest in being part of coronavirus research, and those are the people who they will turn to first to enroll, looking for people over 18 and under 85.

Those who participate in the study will be injected with two shots and tracked for 24 months. Half the participants will receive the vaccine, while the other half will receive a placebo. Neither the patients nor the health care workers performing the study will know which shot they’ve received. Pfizer hopes to enroll 30,000 participants worldwide.

Garcia-Diaz said Ochsner will be keeping close tabs on patients afterward, documenting any side effects that could range from pain at the site of the injection to fever. Doctors will also look closely at whether patients develop any sort of respiratory infections, which could be signs that they’ve been infected with coronavirus and that the vaccine — if they did not get the placebo — was ineffective at preventing it. 

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Though vaccines often take years to develop, pharmaceutical companies have been rushing to test possibilities as researchers across the world seek answers on how to block the spread of the coronavirus.

Garcia-Diaz said the public should know that the necessary safeguards are in place.

“Just because we’re trying to go through this process fast doesn’t mean we’re skipping any steps,” she said.

The Pfizer clinical trial is the first one Ochsner is participating in, but there are others happening around the state. Meridian Clinical Research in Baton Rouge and Benchmark in Jefferson Parish are also conducting research on a vaccine from the biotech company Moderna.

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The Moderna vaccine was the first to be tested on humans in the U.S., and the company started enrolling people on Monday for a second round of clinical trials. Moderna rolled out its larger study, to include 30,000 test participants, after a 45-person study of its mRNA vaccine showed promising results.

It’s likely that more clinical trials will begin soon. Oxford University researchers in the U.K. are speeding forward with a vaccine in the final stage of clinical trials, with some studies expected to eventually come to the U.S. And researchers with Johnson & Johnson announced this week that their experimental coronavirus vaccine would start human trials after the vaccine showed promise in monkeys.

There are 26 vaccine candidates in clinical evaluation for the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

As of Friday, Louisiana reported 116,280 coronavirus cases and 3,835 deaths. Garcia-Diaz said people should not let their guard down thinking a vaccine is on the way.

The state is still far from reaching herd immunity, and coronavirus spreads easily. She urged people to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and socially distance.

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Another coronavirus vaccine trial comes to Louisiana: Ochsner to test Pfizer vaccine – NOLA.com

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