Local research clinic conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The pursuit for a COVID-19 vaccine continues.

Optimal Research has specialized in vaccine research for decades, including testing for viruses such as Ebola and H1N1. Now the institute is focusing on helping to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Danielle Scoles, the center’s manager, said there are numerous vaccines being tested across the country, but they’re only testing two.

“We are currently running two COVID-19 vaccines,” Scoles said. “One for Janssen Pharmaceutical and another for Pfizer.”

Scoles said the first trial, Phase 1-2, started about three weeks ago with a group of 90 plus volunteers ranging from ages 18-50. She said in the early trials, people who haven’t had the virus are preferred.

“For Phase 1-2 usually they want people who are completely negative, who don’t have antibodies or haven’t had any cases of COVID-19,” Scoles said. “Whereas in Phase 3, they’ll take participants that both had and haven’t had COVID.”

She said the volunteers were first screened for safety before getting their first injections. They, then, came back a week later for a safety follow up. Scoles said the two vaccines being tested do not contain a live virus.

“It’s an inactivated vaccine, you cannot get COVID from these trials,” Scoles said. “It is made in such a way that is supposed to promote an immune response to COVID without actually giving you COVID.”

Colin Corbett, one of the volunteers, described his process of going through the Phase 1 trial.

“First, I had my screening visit where they did an antibodies test to see if I already had COVID and one of those nasal swap tests to see if I actively had COVID and various other blood tests,” Corbett said. “The next day I came in and received the vaccination where there was an 80% probability that it was a vaccination and a 20% chance it was a placebo.”

Corbett said the process afterward wasn’t much of a hassle.

“Every evening I have to take my temperature and record my symptoms to make sure the vaccine is safe,” Corbett said.

He said after getting the call to participate, he felt it was his duty to contribute.

“I was very willing to put myself on the line in order to help out scientific research and hopefully stop this pandemic,” Corbett said.

Scoles said she wanted to clarify that it’s also normal to have an immune response after getting a vaccination.

“It’s normal to have some mild symptoms of a headache, arm pain, a fever it’s kind of just an immune response to the vaccination,” Scoles said. “It’s actually proof that it’s working not that you’ve contracted anything.”

She said within a week they’ll start another trial with about 50 volunteers with ages ranging from 65 and older. She said they’ll also conduct another trial, for Pfizer, where they’ll take up to 200 volunteers who have and haven’t had the virus.

Scoles said the volunteers are the real heroes in these trails.

“They’re advancing medicine in a way that we couldn’t do without them,” Scoles said.

She said the follow up appointments can continue for about a year while looking for antibodies.

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