Clare Residents Sign Up for Northwestern COVID-19 Prevention Trials Registry

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From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have emphasized the severe risk the virus poses to older adults. Congregated living facilities like retirement communities and other health care centers have been the hardest hit, which is why The Clare took swift precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the building.

When Northwestern Medicine launched a registry in late July for people interested in participating in COVID-19 clinical trials, many residents at The Clare were eager to sign up.

“If my participation will help in the future, that’s terrific,” says resident Sheila Rock, who added her name to the registry. “If it’ll help me presently to avoid developing COVID, I’m happy for that, too.”

The goal of the registry is to recruit participants in the Chicago area who are at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 and interested in studies for the prevention of infection. These at-risk individuals include:

– Health care workers

– Factory or plant workers

– People living in congregated living facilities

Additionally, the registry seeks participants within groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including older adults, those with certain underlying health conditions and racial/ethnic groups like African Americans, Latinx and Native Americans.

“We are casting a really wide net so we can make sure we have enough people identified and ready to go for upcoming studies,” principal investigator Dr. Karen Krueger says in a release. She is a Northwestern Medicine physician and instructor in infectious diseases at Feinberg School of Medicine.

“This is vital to individuals’ and community health during the coronavirus pandemic,” Dr. Krueger says.

The first study to stem from the registry is a Phase 3 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine drug candidate from AstraZeneca LLC. Initial results from the first two trial phases indicate the drug’s safety, and participants demonstrated boosted antibody responses.

“Certainly, participation is important for gathering definitive data to confirm efficacy of the vaccine,” says resident Sally Kinnamon, who also signed up for the registry. “It also sets an example for others to consider taking the vaccine once approved.”

The rapid rate at which COVID-19 has swept the nation and the world has intensified the need for a safe, viable vaccine. Whereas vaccines typically undergo years of development and testing to ensure efficacy and safety, researchers are now expediting trials for potential COVID-19 vaccine drug candidates to prepare them for the public in a matter of months. Since a vaccine is likely a key factor in overcoming COVID-19, the Phase 3 trial through Northwestern could be a turning point.

The unprecedented push toward vaccine approval may cause hesitation for some. But residents like Sheila and Sally are more than happy to participate in clinical trials in an effort to eradicate the virus and return to some sense of normalcy in day-to-day life.

“It’s not unlike years ago, when we went through friends and family developing polio,” Sheila says. “Now, we don’t even think about it, because there’s a vaccine for it. I hope that, ultimately, that’s what occurs here. That when people in the future talk about COVID-19 and the pandemic, it’s not a pressing issue, because we’ll have a vaccine.”