Seattle vaccine researchers react to Pfizer, still need volunteers

SEATTLE — At Fred Hutch in Seattle, researchers are getting ready to begin phase 3 in the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial.

They are seeking 500 volunteers to help them test the vaccine that targets the COVID-19 spike protein.

Doctors were encouraged by the preliminary results released by Pfizer on Monday.

“I think it gives us all great hope that this is going to potentially be possible to do,” said Dr. Julie McElrath at Fred Hutch, who is leading the phase 3 Astra Zeneca trial. “If we can get antibodies against the spike protein, which is what all of these vaccines are endeavoring to do, then we have a chance to prevent those infection.”

Pfizer reported its vaccine is 90 % effective.

The pharmaceutical giant reported it plans to seek emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon after volunteers from the clinical trial have been monitored two months after their second dose. That could happen as soon as next week.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, “I think that likely, based on impact, that will be the greatest medical advance in the last hundred years.”

In Seattle, researchers said it shows they are working in the right direction.

Dr. Adrienne Shapiro, of UW Medicine, is a co-investigator on the Astra Zeneca clinical trial starting at Fred Hutch.

“We’re not at the finish line. We made an important lap, but nothing needs to slow down as far as working on vaccine trials,” said Shapiro of the Pfizer announcement. “I think this really validates the efforts of the scientific community and, most importantly, the thousands of volunteers who have been willing to participate in these trials.”

Fred Hutch needs 500 participants to enroll in the trial. You must be 18 or older, and it is focusing on people with pre-existing conditions, older adults, health care workers and volunteers from different ethnic backgrounds. This is as it wants to make sure the vaccine is effective for everyone.

Fred Hutch has several ways volunteers can enroll:

• Complete the volunteer screening registry and enter site code “SVTU.”

• Email: info@seattlevaccines.org.

• Call or text: 206-667-2300.

• Visit www.fredhutch.org/covidstudies for more information.

Participants will:

• Commit to coming into one of the research sites for nine or more visits over one to two years, receiving two injections of the trial vaccine or placebo and having several blood draws to measure immune response.

• Keep track of how they’re feeling following each injection. The study staff will also be in contact with each participant.

• Be aware that the study will be double-blind and randomized, with two of three participants receiving the trial vaccine and one of three participants receiving the placebo (saltwater).

• Receive compensation for their time and travel.