The UVM Health Network has played a vital role in our region’s response to COVID-19, both in terms of caring for those who’ve fallen ill and preventing the spread of this virus. So I’m proud to let you know that UVM Medical Center and the Vaccine Testing Center at UVM Larner College of Medicine have been selected to participate in a Phase 3 trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. This is a two-year trial that will include at least 250 people from our region and about 30,000 nationwide.
While we must continue to do all we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 via handwashing, masking and distancing, the development of an effective vaccine will represent a giant leap forward in the fight against this terrible illness. Put simply, it will save many lives – both here and around the world.
Our response to COVID-19 has been a partnership with our patients and our communities in Vermont and in the North Country of New York. That includes the invaluable support of our partners in federal, state and local governments. I’ve said, time and again, that we’re all in this together – and that’s just as true now as it was at the start of this pandemic. While our network has taken the lead in testing, prevention, education and patient care, we’ve relied on everyone in our region to be diligent in preventing the spread of COVID-19. And we’ve relied on the ingenuity, dedication and sacrifice of leaders like you to protect the most vulnerable and keep our communities headed in the right direction. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing more from us about the structure, safety and importance of this vaccine trial. We’ll also be recruiting volunteers from throughout our region. I hope we can rely on your support for this effort, as our communities trust in your voice and example.
As you may have heard, this particular study, as well as another of the Phase 3 trials (Johnson & Johnson), had been temporarily stopped to review specific symptoms in one of the volunteers in each of the studies. For AstraZeneca, the FDA as well as an independent group of experts have completed an extremely comprehensive and detailed review of all of the participants in this work with the intention of understanding if the symptom was linked to the vaccine. Ultimately, the FDA and the independent review group concluded that the AstraZeneca study was safe to proceed. It will start enrollment again this week.
You can count on us to continue to lead the way: We have the expertise and the experience to be able to contribute meaningfully, safely and effectively to this work. Participation in this trial highlights the tremendous regional value of our academic mission, as well as the strength of our health system. Additionally, the trial will build on a strong track record of vaccine research. UVM’s Vaccine Testing Center has been doing this work for two decades and has studied vaccines for Dengue, Cholera, Camplyobacter, Cholera, Typhoid, Anthrax, West Nile Virus and Zika. The center has an international reach and a commitment to tackling the world’s toughest infectious disease issues.
For more information about this vaccine trial, you can visit UVMHealth.org/COVIDStudy. We also are hosting an information session for the general public on Monday, November 2nd from 5:30-6:45 p.m.; more information is available here. Thank you for your ongoing support, especially amid the challenges of this pandemic. I know that we’ll get through this, and we’ll do it by continuing to work together.
John R. Brumsted, MD President and CEO, The University of Vermont Health Network