National COVID-19 transmission study expands to Houston area
Houston residents can now take part in a national study evaluating the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in young adults. Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) has expanded participation in the PreventCOVIDU study to include the Houston area. The study involving thousands of young adults across the United States aims to determine whether individuals who have received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can still spread the coronavirus to others.
The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), headquartered at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, launched the study in March following an announcement from the White House. Researchers from Texas A&M Health are involved in enrolling participants and collecting data for the study. They have been recruiting in Bryan-College Station and Kingsville since the study launched and hope that by expanding to Houston they will reach or exceed their goal of enrolling at least 2000 young adults in Texas ages 18-29. This is the first study of this kind to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine on SARS-CoV-2 infection, how infectious a person with the virus may be, and transmission of the virus to others.
“This is an incredible opportunity for young adults to be part of something big,” said principal investigator Rebecca Fischer, PhD, MPH, DTM&H, a professor at Texas A&M School of Public Health. “The scientific evidence we build through this historic effort will help answer some of the most important questions the world has at this moment about how vaccines work to prevent infections in a real-world scenario. We know the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing disease, hospitalizations, and deaths. We hope to learn whether they can also block infections and prevent transmission. Through this study, we can start answering these questions in the next few months.” The researchers in this study want to learn if the vaccine protects people from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, and if the vaccine prevents individuals from transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others.
This randomized, open-label controlled study will involve 18,000 young people throughout the United States. Participants will be offered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as part of the study, but vaccination is not required to take part. Half of the participants who receive the vaccine will be randomly selected to be vaccinated as soon as they enroll in the study, and the other half will receive the vaccine later during the study. Individuals who prefer not to receive the vaccine are also able to participate, acting as a control group.
Texas A&M is the only institution in Texas participating in this national study, and Texas is leading the nation in participation, which means young adults who enroll play a vital role in representing their peers across the state.
Participants will be required to do COVID-19 testing at home daily, complete questionnaires through an e-diary app and periodically provide blood samples. Study-related tests and the vaccine will be provided at no cost. Additional procedures will be followed should a participant test positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the study, including contact tracing.
Additional individuals identified by the participants as “close contacts” will be invited to join a sub-study. Close contacts who agree to participate will be asked to answer weekly questionnaires, provide two blood samples and take daily nose swabs for two weeks.
Young adults who have not yet been vaccinated and have never had CoVID-19 are invited to consider participating. To join this study, participants will be required to undergo a screening process, sign a consent form, and complete a questionnaire that will determine eligibility. Participants could receive up to $1,000 over four months while taking part in the study.
“What we hope to learn is important scientifically, as we constantly seek to learn more about this coronavirus and how it spreads,” Fischer said. “It will ultimately help guide our understanding of how vaccines can allow us to safely interact with others in a way that feels more normal, while at the same time working toward bringing the pandemic to a close.”