Health Team

Duke seeks volunteers to test swine flu vaccine

Posted August 18, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 18, 2009 6:29 p.m. EDT

— Duke University researchers are enlisting volunteers for a clinical trial to test a vaccine for the H1N1 virus.

GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and other drug companies manufacturing the swine flu vaccine, said they have run into production problems and will have only 45 million doses ready by mid-October. Previously, the companies planned to have 120 million doses ready for the start of the flu season.

More doses will become available later in the flu season, so public health experts urged that people most at risk for complications from the illness – young children, pregnant women and health care workers – should get immunized first.

Duke is recruiting children between 6 months to 18 years old for the next phase of the vaccine trial. Volunteers are paid $40 per clinic visit for up to five visits.

Adults have already been run through testing at Duke. They received two shots three weeks apart so physicians could compare the safety of high and low doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

"We're evaluating patients from 18 all the way up through the elderly," said Dr. Chip Walter, a pediatrician at Duke. "We truly expect it to be comparable to the regular seasonal flu vaccine in terms of side-effects."

The most common side-effects of the seasonal flu vaccine are reactions at the vaccine site, a headache or possibly a fever. But the H1N1 vaccine is relatively new and unknown.

Jean O'Briant, 81, and Jennifer Martinez volunteered for the Duke trial for different reasons.

"They think that this might prevent you from having it, and we're anxious to stay as healthy as we can as long as we can," O'Briant said.

"I'm an immunology graduate student, so especially with things like vaccines, I am very interested in," Martinez said.

Other locations are conducting clinical trials to decide how and when to give the H1N1 shots in conjunction with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Public health officials plan to have both vaccines ready and available to as many people as possible during the flu season, which typically runs from December through next May.

Volunteers interested in participating in the Duke clinical trial can call 919-620-5350.