LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 16, 2021) — While everyone is understandably eager for a return to “normal,” the reality is that COVID is still among us. The pandemic isn’t over (especially on a global scale), immunocompromised folks remain at risk and there’s still much to learn about this evolving virus.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky are part of PreventCovidU, a national study designed to answer urgent questions for ending the pandemic: How is COVID spreading among vaccinated and unvaccinated people? And while the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness, we know vaccinated people can still develop asymptomatic infections, so can those people unknowingly spread the virus?
The research team hopes the study’s results will inform science-based decisions about mask use and social distancing after vaccination, especially as new variants spread and emerge.
Though the trial was originally open only to postsecondary students, enrollment criteria have expanded due to the changing national landscape of vaccination.
Now, UK is inviting adults between 18 and 29 who want to get vaccinated and those who don’t want to get vaccinated to participate in this paid study.
Participants are compensated for completing at-home nose swabs and a few blood draws in UK’s clinic over a five-month period. To be eligible, participants must not have had COVID-19 or a COVID-19 vaccine in the past. Approximately 150 local volunteers and 12,000 nationally will be enrolled in the trial.
Interested individuals can visit StopCOVIDKy.com for full details and an eligibility survey.
Uniquely, the PreventCovidU study utilizes daily nose swabs to measure virus load in the noses of vaccinated people and also invites “close contacts” of those people to be tested as well. Daily testing is key to understanding the stealthy nature of COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2. Studies suggest a person is most infectious for only a few days, often before the onset, if ever, of any COVID-19 symptoms. Roughly half of infections remain asymptomatic.
High-density housing, impulse to socialize, and less fear of severe disease in young people are all factors that contribute to the high burden of COVID-19 infection on college campuses and in this age group, according to Holly Janes, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and one of the leaders of the study.
At UK, the PreventCovidU study is led by Dr. Richard Greenberg, Dr. Christopher Simmons, Dr. Philip Kern, Dr. T. Shawn Caudill and George Hoover, MBBS.
Greenberg brings four decades of vaccine development experience and is also leading trials of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at UK, which was the world’s top-enrolling site for the company’s Phase 3 single-dose trial.
“With PreventCovidU, the University of Kentucky adds to its already extensive clinical research effort to end this pandemic. It shows the nation, not only by the efforts of its academic leaders but also by the resolve of its students and community, that UK cares,” Greenberg said. “We’re thankful for everyone who chooses to participate in this historic effort — they become part of our family.”
The UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), led by Kern, is implementing the Johnson & Johnson and PreventCovidU trials at UK, as well as supporting the KidCOVE pediatric vaccine study.
“Our mission at the CCTS is to accelerate discoveries that improve health in the Commonwealth and beyond. Providing the infrastructure for COVID-19 vaccine trials at UK embodies the reason we’re here,” said Kern.
PreventCovidU is designed and managed by the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), headquartered at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and funded by the Federal COVID-19 Response Program and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (led by Dr. Anthony Fauci).
This article includes reporting from the CoVPN and the Fred Hutch News Service.
The mission of the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science is to accelerate discoveries that improve health. Through research funding, training, infrastructure, community engagement, and local and national partnerships, CCTS facilitates innovative team science to address critical health issues, with particular focus on Central Appalachia. The center is supported by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at National Institutes of Health, grant number UL1TR001998.
The COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health to respond to the global pandemic. Through the CoVPN, NIAID is leveraging the infectious disease expertise of its existing research networks and global partners to address the pressing need for vaccines and antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. CoVPN will work to develop and conduct studies to ensure rapid and thorough evaluation of vaccines and antibodies for the prevention of COVID-19. The CoVPN is headquartered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.