Some of the first volunteers in a new COVID-19 vaccine trial received their injections at Henry Ford Health System on Wednesday.
18 patients were given either the vaccine candidate, or a placebo (a saline solution).
Researchers at Henry Ford say thousands of people from southeast Michigan have shown interest in participating in the trial, which is led by the National Institutes of Health and the drug maker Moderna. As of Monday, the hospital system had treated 8,428 patients with COVID-19, according to a press release.
“The response has been really great,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, the study’s principal investigator at the Henry Ford site. “It’s been a very diverse group of people who have expressed an interest.”
The Detroit-based hospital system is one of 89 sites in the U.S. recruiting patients for the trial. It was selected because of its location, an area severely impacted by COVID-19.
“It’s good to hear that Henry Ford has been selected as a site, because it’s in a very diverse location,” said Dr. Courtney Townsel, who cares for women with high-risk pregnancies at the University of Michigan, and researches health disparities among those patients.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to recruit patients, and patients will feel safe and comfortable in the clinical trial.”
Dr. Katherine Reyes, another Henry Ford researcher, said during a press call last week that an approved vaccine might be able to protect more people if it's tested on diverse participants.
Dr. Zervos says the researchers have worked with churches and community groups to enroll patients who are more likely to get exposed to the virus, and more at risk if they get sick with COVID-19.
That includes residents and workers at nursing homes; healthcare workers; people who have underlying medical conditions; and people like bus drivers, whose jobs put them at higher risk of exposure.
“It’s critical for us to reach out into the community — not just for trials, which is important — but also for deployment of the vaccine, when it becomes available,” Zervos said.
He says the health system will soon release demographic data on who's participating in the trial.
“I am certain that that information will be published without much delay — because of, you know, the great interest in the findings,” he said.