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By Mallory Prophet
Researchers from Kentucky University are part of “PreventCovidU,” a national study designed to answer pressing questions to end the pandemic: How is the virus spreading between vaccinated and unvaccinated people? And while vaccines are extremely effective at preventing disease, we know that vaccinated people can still develop infections without symptoms, so can those people unknowingly spread the virus?
The research team hopes the study results will inform science-based decisions about mask use and social distancing after vaccination, especially as new variants emerge and spread.
Although the trial was originally open only to postsecondary education students, it has been expanded due to the changing national landscape of vaccination.
The UK is inviting adults aged 18-29 who want to be vaccinated and those who do not want to be vaccinated to participate in the study.
Participants are compensated for completing nasal swabs at home and some blood draws at a UK clinic for five months. To be eligible, you must not have had Covid-19 or a coronavirus vaccine. Approximately 150 local and 12,000 national volunteers will enroll in the study.
Interested people can visit StopCOVIDKy.com for full details and an eligibility survey.
The study uses daily nasal swabs to measure the virus load in the nose of vaccinated people and also invites close contacts of those people to get tested. Daily testing is key to understanding the stealth nature of the virus. Studies suggest that a person is most contagious for only a few days, often before the onset, if ever, of any symptoms. About half of infections have no symptoms, but they can still spread.
In youth, high-density housing, the drive to socialize, and less fear of serious illness are contributing factors to the high burden of coronavirus infection on college campuses and the 18-29 age group, says Holly. Janes, teacher of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and one of the study leaders.
In the UK, the PreventCovidU study is led by Drs Richard Greenberg, Christopher Simmons, Philip Kern, T. Shawn Caudill, and George Hoover. Greenberg brings four decades of experience in vaccine development and also leads trials of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the UK, which was the world’s leading enrollment site for the company’s Phase 3 single-dose trial.
“With Prevent CovidU, the University of Kentucky joins its already extensive clinical research effort to end this pandemic,” Greenberg said. “We are grateful for all who choose to participate in this historic endeavor – they become part of our family.”
UK Center for clinical and translational science, led by Kern, is implementing the Johnson & Johnson and PreventCovidU tests in the UK. PreventCovidU is designed and managed by COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), based at the “Fred Hutch” center, which its founder, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, named after his brother Fred, who died of lung cancer in 1964 while managing the Cincinnati Reds.
This article includes reports from CoVPN and Fred Hutch News Service.