A Question and Answer Session with Richard G. Pellegrino, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research
What is BHCCR?
The Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research (BHCCR) is the research arm of Baptist Health. We conduct clinical research studies with participants suffering from a wide range of ailments. However, given the devastation and disruption caused by COVID-19, we have chosen to concentrate on COVID-19 prevention trials to help us get out of this mess.
When you say COVID prevention, what do you mean?
Mostly we are speaking about vaccines. However, the sense of urgency created by Operation Warp Speed has brought out many possible solutions.
All COVID-19 vaccines are not the same, but they do share one attribute. They all seek to sensitize your immune system to a particular protein found on the coronavirus. When your immune system attacks this protein, the coronavirus dies.
What is different about these vaccines, is how they sensitize the immune system. All of these vaccines are injected into a muscle, just like the flu vaccine. Some vaccines that we are studying are just the target protein. The body responds to this foreign protein and sensitizes the immune system. Others inject messenger RNA, which is translated by cells into the same or similar protein and elicits an immune response. Others modify a noninfectious virus so that it produces the COVID-19 protein and elicits an immune response.
The point is that when your body is sensitized to this protein, it will rapidly attack any actual COVID-19 virus you become infected with. Your body is ready to fight back.
Because it takes weeks for the body to sensitize the immune system in response to a vaccine, you are not actually immune for 3-4 weeks. Another approach involves injecting antibodies known to kill the COVID-19 virus directly into your muscle. With this approach, you are immediately immune to actual COVID-19 infection.
We will be studying all of these methods at BHCCR.
What will I have to do if I choose to participate in one of the studies?
If you go to ArkansasCovidVaccine.com and fill out the contact form, we will contact you to get more information, explain the study and see if you qualify.
If we feel that you will most likely qualify, we will ask you to come into the office. We will explain the study again and if you want to proceed, we will ask you to sign an informed consent. After this, we will do a physical examination, take a medical history, do blood work and a COVID-19 test. You will then be eligible to receive the vaccine or other COVID-19 prevention agent. At this time, you may also receive a placebo.
What about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which showed promising results?
There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine on the market. However, these 2 vaccines were over 90% effective based on preliminary results. It is possible that the Pfizer and/or Moderna vaccine will be approved for emergency use in late December or early January. If they are, it will be available to healthcare personnel first. Dr. Fauci does not believe a vaccine will be available for the general public until the middle of next year. Once it becomes generally available, people in the placebo group may be given one of these vaccines. This will be up to the FDA and NIH.
Will I be paid for my participation?
Yes. You will be paid up to $1400 for time and travel.
If you are interested in learning more about participating in a COVID-19 vaccine or prevention study, please go to ArkansasCovidVaccine.com and fill out a brief contact form. No obligation. We will get back to you!
Learn more about Baptist Health’s COVID-19 resources and information.