Trial testing how well vaccines prevent spread of virus among college students

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Posted at 2:42 PM, Mar 31, 2021

Colleges are working now on their plans for what campuses will be like in the fall. They're considering how vaccines will play into this and if they'll be required.

A new clinical trial that's starting is testing how well the COVID-19 vaccine prevents infection and spread of the virus among college students.

So far, in studies among health care workers who have received the vaccine, the infection rate has been possible, but rare. But these studies haven't looked at transmission after vaccination. That's something the study of college students will include.

“While we hope that infection is like a proxy for transmission, obviously if you don't have infection, you can't transmit it, but if you have low level infection, you can you transmit it. We just don't know that,” said Audrey Pettifor, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina.

Pettifor is one of the researchers leading this study through the COVID-19 prevention network. She says college campuses are a good place to study transmission of the coronavirus, because of how close students live together.

Half of the students in the study will be randomly selected to get the Moderna vaccine right away. The other half will get it four months later.

They'll be swabbing their noses every day for four months for COVID-19 infection and providing periodic blood samples.

People who have regular interactions with them will also be invited to participate as well to track any possible COVID-19 transmission to them.

The researchers are particularly interested in how the vaccines do with the new COVID-19 variants.

“I think that all of this will help universities decide policies and hopefully other and not just universities, you know, other congregate settings what does it mean for mask wearing, what does it mean for what you can do when you're vaccinated? Do I have to worry about giving it to other people or not if I’m vaccinated?”

Researchers hope to enroll more than 12,000 students from more than 20 universities nationwide in this study. They're specifically looking for students who aren't in a rush to get the vaccine right away. They hope to have some results of the study by the fall.

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