Hundreds of volunteers participating in coronavirus vaccine trial in Kingsport, Bristol


KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- A wide-ranging group of volunteers from ages 18 to 85 have joined a COVID-19 vaccine trial at Holston Medical Group’s Kingsport and Bristol sites.

HMG’s locations are part of a global vaccine study sponsored by Pfizer, which involves more than 30,000 participants. Nearly 400 are involved through HMG. Their study began in August, and participant recruitment ended in September.

Dr. David Morin, director of research for HMG, said the enthusiasm to volunteer was “tremendous.” He said all participants had to be medically stable, but some have co-morbidities in order to accurately reflect society in the study.

“We had a lot of first responders. We had many physicians, firefighters, policemen. We had members of the community join the study. It’s going very well,” he said.

The Phase Three study of the vaccine is conducted to test its safety and efficiency. Half the participants recieved the active vaccine. The other half recieved a saltwater injection placebo. Neither the patients nor researchers in the double blind study know who got what.

“They’re going to compare the groups who got COVID – were there fewer cases of COVID in patients who got the active vaccine compared to the placebo? And that’s how they’ll determine if the medication is effective,” Morin said.

Volunteers are expected to keep a diary monitoring their symptoms throughout the two-year study. However, researchers hope to get a signal on the vaccine’s effectiveness before that.

Morin says he knows vaccines are being politicized, but when trying to develop one to save lives, he said the researchers can’t presume a timeline for when it will be ready.

“No vaccine is going to be approved unless it has proven to be safe and effective,” Morin said.

Multiple trials are happening around the world for different possible COVID-19 vaccines. The pausing of some other pharmaceutical company’s studies in recent weeks due to adverse reactions has drawn headlines. Morin said these actions should give the public confidence that vaccine safety is taken seriously.

“I think the more they understand about the process, the more comfortable they should feel,” he said.

Even after a vaccine is approved for the public, it will still continue to be studied as long as it’s used.

Morin said the vaccine development research is especially important as case numbers rise in Sullivan County.

“Our lives have been so consumed by this [virus], turned upside down,” he said. “And in some cases, many lives have ended and serious illnesses occur. There’s still a potential for this disease to continue. That’s where I think a vaccine is so important to begin to get control of that, and begin to get our lives back.”


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Coronavirus COVID-19 videos

Biden slams Trump for 'knowingly' lying on COVID

McEnany: Trump 'never lied' to the public on COVID

Trump bemoans virus restrictions in North Carolina

University of Tennessee relocating Massey Hall residents to make room for COVID-19 self-isolation cases

Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County reports 100 new cases, 157 new inactive cases

Knox County Health Dept. says plan in place for vaccine distribution

UT Chancellor: Some dodging COVID-19 precautions

Two Tennessee women participating in a COVID-19 vaccine study

Tennessee teachers asking for more safety measures

State launching COVID-19 schools dashboard

Knox County Health Dept.: Numbers reflect new timeframe for inactive cases

Clinton High School cancels next 2 weeks of games due to virus

UT chancellor: Fraternities trying to avoid COVID-19 precautions

Trending Stories

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter

WATE 6 Storm Weather School