AstraZeneca is conducting a clinical trial in Albuquerque for a new COVID-19 vaccine that takes a novel approach to fighting the virus.
Renal Medicine Associates, a New Mexico-based medical practice that specializes in clinical trials for kidney disease, was selected as one of 30 sites for the clinical trial around the country.
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has authorized and recommended two vaccines to protect people from COVID-19 – one from Moderna and one from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Dr. Jayant Kumar of Renal Medicine Associates said AstraZeneca’s vaccine takes a different approach from the two currently on the market, using a combination of pre-made antibodies to fight the virus.
Because the vaccine doesn’t require the body to produce its own antibodies, Kumar said it should be effective without any lag time.
This should make it useful for dealing with virus outbreaks in college dorms, nursing homes and other confined spaces where the virus can spread rapidly, Kumar said. He added that the vaccine will also help immunocompromised people.
“I think this vaccine will probably have a niche,” Kumar said.
The clinical trial is open to all adults 18 years and older who consider themselves to be at high risk of contracting the virus. Kumar said that includes people with medical risk factors like diabetes, lung disease and high blood pressure, along with frontline workers and employees at close-contact industrial spaces.
Kumar said the trial will be a double-blind study, with two out of every three participants receiving the real vaccine. On their first visit, participants will give their medical information, go through a few tests including a nasal swab to test for the virus, and receive the shot. Kumar said the first visit will likely take a couple hours.
He said participants are expected to attend seven or eight follow-up appointments throughout the year, each of which can be expected to take about a half-hour. Participants who complete the trial may receive up to $900, Kumar said.
With many New Mexicans not expected to receive the vaccine for several months, Kumar said the trial has attracted a lot of interest. The site has been approved for 125 participants, with about 100 already onboard.
“We have a fairly large number of volunteers already signed up,” he said.
However, Kumar said the number isn’t capped permanently, and the site can add capacity.
The first patients will be enrolled this coming week, and Kumar said he’s hopeful that, if the trials go well, the vaccine can be on the market by the second half of the year.
“I think they’re probably looking at trying to roll it out by late summer, fall,” he said.
The Albuquerque site is the only one selected in New Mexico, and Kumar said the site was chosen in part because of the state’s diverse population.
Kumar said Renal’s experience losing patients to the virus also motivated the organization to head the trial.
“We wanted to do our part with the pandemic, because we have such a high impact of COVID in patients we take care of,” he said.