How to Volunteer for A Coronavirus Vaccine Study

Published September 24th, 2020 by Dr. Miriam Opara, PharmD
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

The race to discover a vaccine for the novel 2019 coronavirus (COVID019) has been ongoing for the past seven months. Scientists are developing more than 100 different coronavirus vaccines to protect people before they are exposed to the virus.  

The challenge in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 is that the normal development cycle of a vaccine usually takes years. 

The COVID-19 prevention network (CoVPN) collaborates with networks and research experts to develop and carry out studies that evaluate vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19. 

CoVPN combines four existing clinical trial networks funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): 

  1. The HIV Vaccine Trials Network 
  2. The HIV Prevention Trials Network 
  3. The Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium 
  4. The AIDS Clinical Trials Group 

The mission of CoVPN is to conduct phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.

What are Vaccines?

A vaccine is a substance that teaches your body to recognize a foreign invader, like a virus, and alerts the immune system to fight off the virus. The goal of a vaccine is to cause an immune response by looking like a virus, without actually causing the disease itself. This immune response teaches your body how to respond in case you do become infected with the virus. 

There are several types of COVID-19 vaccines in development: 

  • Genetic vaccines: deliver one or more of the coronavirus’s genes into our cells to produce an immune response 
  • Viral vector vaccines: viruses engineered to carry coronavirus genes into our cells 
  • Protein-Based vaccines: deliver coronavirus proteins (whole proteins, or fragments), but no genetic material is used 
  • Inactivated vaccines: weakened or killed coronavirus is delivered to the body 

What are Monoclonal Antibodies?

Antibodies are part of your normal immune system. They recognize foreign invaders, like a virus, and mark it, so the body knows where to send additional cells to fight off the virus. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made antibodies. They are a good option for immediate protection to fight off infections until a vaccine is available. 

The Vaccine Development Process 

Preclinical Testing: test new vaccines on cells and then animals, like mice or monkeys, to see if there is an immune response 

Phase 1: Safety trials: test vaccine on a small number of healthy people to examine safety and the proper dose, as well as confirm an immune response in humans 

Phase 2: Expanded trials: tests the vaccine on hundreds of people divided into groups to see how the vaccine acts differently in them 

Phase 3: Efficacy trials: tests the vaccine on thousands of people and see how many become infected compared with volunteers who received a placebo or a blank dose 

Approval: Regulators review the trial results and decide to approve or not approve the vaccine based on the new drug application submitted by the manufacturer

Phase 4: monitors people to track the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine over a more extended period 

What to Expect if you Volunteer for CoVPN

CoVPN has clinics all over the country to provide inclusive access for volunteers who are a part of the study. Volunteers can choose a local clinic and decide if they would be a good match for that study. Here is what you can expect before, during, and after a study: 

Before a clinical trial 

  • Gather information about the research site 
  • Be prepared to answer some personal questions to ensure you are a good fit for the study 
  • You will receive details about the study 
  • Be prepared to travel to the research site for ten or more visits over 1-2 years 

During the study 

  • You will NOT be exposed to COVID-19 virus as part of the study 
  • You may receive an injection or infusion of the vaccine or a placebo 
  • Track how you feel and how your body responds after receiving the injections 
  • If you do get COVID-19 during the study, the staff will make sure you receive adequate care 

After the study 

  • You may be contacted to volunteer for another study 
  • No identifiable information will be released as part of the results 

Are You Interested in Volunteering? 

CoVPN needs tens of thousands of volunteers to be enrolled in various phases of vaccine trials. As a vaccine progresses through the development process, more volunteers are needed. 

If you are interested in being involved in the development of a vaccine, visit the CoVPN website NOW. Fill out the Volunteer Screening Registry, and someone will contact you if they feel you would be a good match for an available study.

COVID-19 is still a threat to our health and well-being. Consider joining in the effort to combat COVID-19 through CoVPN. 


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Published September 24th, 2020 by Dr. Miriam Opara, PharmD
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

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