MISSION, Texas – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says residents in South Texas will play a role in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Cuellar said the National Institute of Health wants to ensure the volunteer pool is as diverse as possible.

Along with members of the Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American Congressional caucuses, Cuellar participated in a meeting with Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci to discuss ways to increase the number of diverse participants at each of the COVID-19 clinical trial sites. 

Cuellar said Moderna has announced its vaccine trial sites for the COVID-19 vaccine in many locations across the United States, including Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.

“Hispanic populations have long been underrepresented in medical research despite being disproportionately affected by many of the studied disease, including the COVID-19,” said Congressman Cuellar. “For this reason, I am working hard with the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create a diverse study population of the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure all Americans benefit from the eventual treatments. The inclusion of Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio in this vaccine trial will help to guarantee that treatments work for all communities in America.” 

Cuellar added: “As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we know from history that we cannot get this wrong. I am committed to working with the National Institute of Health to ensure the future vaccine is affordable and accessible in all communities. I want to thank Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins for taking the time to meet with us as well as working to ensure that Hispanic populations are represented in this vital work.”

Cuellar said the companies that will be conducting the COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Texas include:

  • Laguna Clinical Research Associates in Laredo.
  • Centex Studies, Inc. in McAllen.
  • Clinical Trials of Texas in San Antonio.

The attached podcast includes the remarks of Congressman Cuellar at a webinar with reporters about the clinical trails for a COVID-19 vaccine. The podcast also includes the comments of Dr. Joseph McCormick, a world renowned epidemiologist who now works for UT Health Science Center-Houston. McCormick is the founder of the UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville. 

Adults who are interested in joining this study can visit:  

Participating in a COVID-19 Vaccine Trial will entail the following:

  • Volunteers must provide informed consent to participate in the trial.
  • Trial volunteers will receive two intramuscular injections approximately 28 days apart.
  • Participants will be asked to provide a nasopharyngeal swab and a blood sample at an initial screening visit.
  • Additional blood samples will be asked at specified time points after each vaccination and over the two years following the second vaccination.
  • Scientists will examine blood samples in the laboratory to detect and quantify immune responses to SARS-CoV-2

In April 2020, the NIH announced the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership to help coordinate research strategies through collaborations with government agencies, academic, nonprofit organizations, and biopharmaceutical companies. In May 2020, the Administration announced the Operation Warp Speed initiative, a national program to accelerate the develop, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 countermeasures, including vaccines.

To help accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines, Operation Warp Speed originally selected 14 vaccine candidates to receive government support with the goal of having three to five candidates launch large-scale randomized trials. The federal government is assuming financial risk by investing in manufacturing capacity while selected vaccine candidates are still in development, rather than scaling up after approval or authorization.

As of July 15, 2020, at least 140 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in preclinical evaluation and at least 23 candidates are in clinical evaluation worldwide. Currently there are five companies involved with Operation Warp Speed with the goal of developing a COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S. by early 2021 including:

  • AstraZeneca,
  • Johnson & Johnson,
  • Merck
  • Moderna
  • Pfizer

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