Health Team

'I was eager to participate:' Chapel Hill resident involved in coronavirus vaccine clinical trial

Posted October 22, 2020 10:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2020 10:29 p.m. EDT

— A milestone in the race for a coronavirus vaccine -- Moderna is the first company to get the 30,000 volunteers needed to its vaccine. It's significant because that is the number of participants need to eventually get FDA approval.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is one of the hosts for their clinical trial.

Chapel Hill resident Gracie Howell has taken on the two year commitment to volunteer as a vaccine participant, which involves multiple shots and check-ins.

"The pandemic has greatly impacted my life," said Howell. "My job in hospitality sales was eliminated in March."

Howell knew she wanted to use her new found free time in a positive way.

"It became clear to me very early that in this situation, a vaccine was going to be the only way out for the world," she said.

After getting a job at Wegman's, she volunteered to get a coronavirus vaccine.

"I was super eager to participate," said Howell.

Howell is part of the Phase 3 clinical trial for Moderna's version of the coronavirus vaccine.

UNC-CH doctor Joe Eron said the participant mile is exciting.

"That means we are going to be closer to an answer on whether this vaccine is effective," he added.

Eron said he expected the vaccine to be available in early 2021.

"I want so much for this vaccine, or a vaccine, to succeed as quickly as possible so I'm committed to making that happen in any way I can possibly support," said Howell.

The Moderna vaccine is one of four that are a part of Operation Warp Speed.

Over the 30,000 participants, 40% of people enrolled are underrepresented minorities and 23% are over the age of 65 -- groups in the high risk categories for coronavirus.

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