Approximately 20% of the volunteers in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 study conducted at the University of Rochester were minorities, so when the vaccine is available to the general public there will be people who can tell others about its effectiveness and whether they had side effects.
“A lot of people have heard about the AstraZeneca vaccine and a lot of our community leaders participated and partnered with us in the trial,” said Dr. Angela Branche, who co-led the local arm of the study and is co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit.
“If we actually got doses of AstraZeneca here, I would be hopeful that it would be well-received because we were someplace where the trial was conducted and we have people who can speak personally to their experiences of having gotten the vaccine,” she said.
Volunteers in the study were randomly assigned to get the vaccine or get a placebo. Volunteers and study personnel do not know the group to which volunteers were assigned, however two-thirds of people enrolled received vaccine. The vaccine was developed by the pharmaceutical company and the University of Oxford in England.
When AstraZeneca receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration – which could happen in April – volunteers who were assigned to the placebo group will be able to get the vaccine. It would be the fourth vaccine available in the U.S.
AstraZeneca released interim data on March 22, reporting that the vaccine was highly effective in preventing mild infections and 100% effective at preventing severe COVID. The U.S. trial showed no safety concerns, including the risk of blood clots that had caused some European nations to suspend its use.
AstraZeneca was among the vaccines studied in Rochester. Rochester Regional Health and Rochester Clinical Research also conducted vaccine trials.
The percent of minorities who participated was high in comparison to other clinical studies.
“At the time we were conducting the AstraZeneca (study), three other studies were also enrolling,” Branche said. “Everyone was competing and trying to enroll a diverse study.”
Locally, about 7% to 8% of participants were Latino and about the same proportion was African American, Branche said. Asians made up about 2% to 3% of participants.
She said that overall, the U.S. arm of the worldwide study was about 22% Latino, 8% African American, 5% Asian and 5% Native American.
Branche said the U.S. study also successfully enrolled people older than 65, providing data on the safety of the vaccine among seniors.
Note: Reporter Patti Singer participated in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial at URMC.