College students across the United States will take part in a new study that will test how effective Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is in preventing transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Two separate cohorts of 6,000 students will be followed post-vaccination through questionnaires, daily nose swabs, and periodic blood samples, along with roughly 5,000 people the students name as close contacts.
“The degree of transmission from vaccinating individuals will be determined by the infection rate in the close contacts. So we hope within the next five or so months, we will be able to answer the very important questions about whether vaccinated people get infected asymptomatically and if they do, do they transmit the infection to others,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is funding the study, said during a virtual briefing on Friday.
Students from more than 26 universities have volunteered. They’re all between 18 and 26 years of age.
The first cohort will receive vaccines immediately while the other, serving as the control group, will get shots four months later.
Volunteers are told on the website of the study, dubbed PreventCOVIDU, that they can “help answer some of the biggest questions for getting back to life and help rewrite the future.”
“We already know that this vaccine can prevent serious COVID-19 disease, but we do not know if the vaccine will prevent the virus from shedding from the nose and mouth and infecting others. That is what we are testing in this study,” researchers said on the site.
Moderna’s shot is one of three authorized by U.S. drug regulators. It requires two doses spaced about a month apart.
Fully vaccinated people have been told to largely keep adhering to mitigation measures like social distancing, although health officials have said they can go unmasked when with others who have been fully vaccinated, or when with those who aren’t vaccinated but who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 effects.
Those recommendations stem from officials saying it’s not known for sure whether any of the authorized vaccines prevent transmission of the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.
The new study is being done by the COVID-19 Prevention Network, which is headquartered at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Researchers said the results should be ready in time for the start of the new school year in the fall.
“I can’t overstate the enormous service these students are doing for public health by participating in this study,” Elizabeth Brown, a Fred Hutch biostatistician who helped design the study, said. “They are really giving a lot of themselves to do this, and we really appreciate their effort and contribution to science.”