A phase 3 trial was supposed to begin in the Bay Area in August but was paused after a participant in the U.K. became ill. The FDA did a full investigation and said it was safe to resume U-S trials.
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Only on ABC7 News, reporter Kate Larsen got an inside look at the trial as volunteers got injected in San Francisco.
The Phase 3 AstraZeneca trial will enroll 40,000 participants worldwide. San Francisco's Bridge HIV clinic will have 250 volunteers, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital has 100 volunteers, and the East Bay AIDS center in Oakland will have 50-75 volunteers.
Redwood City resident, Paul Perez, and San Jose residents, Kevin and Tricia Jiang got their first injections Friday at the Bridge HIV clinic. They all volunteered and were chosen for AstraZeneca's Phase 3 COVID vaccine trial.
"I am so hoping I got the vaccine that would be great," exclaimed Tricia.
To eliminate bias in the trial, neither Tricia or the researchers know what she received.
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A computer randomly assigns either a placebo or the vaccine. A pharmacist at UCSF Parnassus fills syringes, which are delivered in a cooler to the clinic in San Francisco. The doctors are unable to see the solution inside.
"We come back in 28 days for the second injection," said Tricia.
San Francisco's Department of Public Health has worked very hard to ensure all the trial participants come from diverse backgrounds, to ensure the vaccine works for everyone.
"The fact that we're different races, I think that's kind of interesting," said Tricia, who is Caucasian and Native American. Her husband is Chinese. "Even though we live together in the same house, how might this impact us differently if we were exposed to COVID?"
Paul is over 65 and Hispanic - two of the most at risk groups for COVID disease.
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"I'm a pretty practicing Catholic, so this to me is the same as delivering food to the poor and going to the homeless shelters. It's just sort of how at least I think I'm being called to live my life," explained Paul.
"You look at the number of deaths, over 1.3 million worldwide, and I just think, what can I do to help," said Tricia.
"In order to want to take a vaccine, you want to know that there's safety and efficacy data in populations that look like you, that are like you," said Dr. Susan Buchbinder, an epidemiologist with San Francisco's Department of Public Health, and the principal investigator for the San Francisco trial at Bridge HIV.
"The vaccine is the only way really for us to get out of this in a substantive way... we're going to need to be getting enough people vaccinated, while wearing masks and doing social distancing."
Depending on vaccine efficacy rates, Dr. Buchbinder says 60% to 80% of the population may need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. She expects data from AstraZeneca's phase 3 trial to be available at the beginning of next year.
The COVID-19 Prevention Network is still enrolling trial volunteers.
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