BALTIMORE — "Am I going to be able to see my grandchildren if I get COVID? When am I gonna be able to see my friends and family again?," said Anna Durbin, professor with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
These questions are on the minds of so many as the pandemic continues and health officials say the only real way to end the uncertainty is a vaccine.
"Where we can know that we can prevent people from becoming ill, from having to be hospitalized," said Durbin.
Durbin will lead a vaccine trial through Johns Hopkins University. It’s one of several going on across the country as part of Project Warp Speed, which is government funded to evaluate and produce multiple vaccines to prevent COVID-19.
The pace of these trials has scared some people but she said they are not cutting any corners on safety. Yes they are moving to the last phase, phase three, sooner than a non-pandemic timeline, but she said it’s for good reason.
"If you look at the risk-benefit ratio, there's very little indication that there would be any long term safety problems from the vaccine. That there's more of a safety issue and a health issue with waiting a year before you initiate the phase three because we would have probably millions more certainly infected, if not killed, by COVID if we wait," said Durbin.
Two vaccines are moving into phase three in Maryland. Both will require two doses given a month apart. One is genetic material-based. The other is with a weakened cold virus. Durbin said the earlier phases showed encouraging results and the most common side effect was a sore arm.
"People are concerned, 'Are you giving me the virus with this vaccine?'. And we say no we are not giving you the virus. This is not a COVID virus. It cannot reproduce in you. We’re giving you a vaccine that makes the protein a part of the virus, that your body is responding to," said Durbin.
Their goal is to enroll 30,000 people by October and they are doing outreach targeting people who are being impacted most by COVID-19: the elderly, people with comorbidities like diabetes or obesity and the Latinx and African American communities.
"There’s a lot of mistrust in this communities about research and about the government for a lot of different reasons... so we are spending a lot of effort and time to really work with these communities to help them understand why we are doing there vaccine trials; why we are reaching out to them particularly," said Durbin.
Enrollment is going on now for some of these vaccine trials and others will start later this week. For more information on volunteering, click here.