U.S. college students are the subjects of a new federally funded study that measures the effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Stony Brook University on Long Island is one college whose students will participate in the study.
The “Prevent COVID U” study will test the effectiveness of the vaccine on about 12,000 students between the ages 18 and 26 from 23 universities over five months. Students are paid about $900 to participate. The study is being conducted by the COVID-19 Prevention Network, which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
The study will help inform public health policy on when to reduce safety measures that are in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Participants in the study will collect and submit daily nasal swabs, participate in occasional blood tests and keep an online diary. The study will also monitor about 25,500 close contacts of the participants, if they become infected with a COVID-19 variant, to measure asymptomatic transmission rates.
“So by studying that exact group, that specific age group and giving them a vaccine, at the end of the study, we will understand exactly how often they get infected, how high the virus titer is in their nose, and how often they are transmitting that virus and infecting their close contacts,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
As the site principal investigator for the study, Nachman said young adults make good subjects for transmission studies because they have high interaction with their peers through social events and congregate living.
The study references a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last September that shows people in their twenties had the highest rate of infection, accounting for over 20% of all confirmed cases between June and August 2020.
Nachman said Stony Brook University was chosen for the study because of its diverse student population and history with enrolling clinical trial participants.
“It’s about wearing masks, about the social distancing. If you’ve been vaccinated, will those activities need to continue? Or are we going to be able to say we don’t need masks anymore?” Nachman said. “Participating in this study is incredibly relevant to how everyone will act after this study is done.”
The study is still in the process of recruiting participants. Students interested in participating can contact their universities through the study’s website.