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Looking for a cure

Howland woman participates in COVID-19 vaccine study

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Linda Cator 75, of Howland tracks her temperature and other data as a participant in a COVID-19 vaccine study administered through Rapid Medical Research, Inc. Cator said she wanted to be a part of this study in order to do her part in finding a cure for the virus.

HOWLAND — Linda Cator is doing more than the average person to stop the spread of COVID-19. The 75-year-old Howland resident is participating in a study for a possible vaccine for the virus.

“If this helps somebody else and helps with the vaccine, I’ve done my part in trying to help with COVID,” Cator said.

Cator is part of a 200-person study based out of Beechwood through Rapid Medical Research Inc. The study runs up to 25 months and involves two injections, one of which Cator has already had.

She doesn’t know if she got the trial vaccine, called mRNA-1273, or if she is in the control group that got a placebo instead — she won’t find out until the study is over. Still, she hopes she got the trial vaccine in case it is successful.

“If I can get some protection ahead of time … I want to do it for me,” Cator said, adding that her friends thought she was crazy for participating in the study, which was open to anyone older than 18.

Cator falls into the high-risk category for the virus because of her age, but is otherwise healthy; she has no underlying conditions and stays active. She was examined and tested for COVID-19 before being accepted into the study.

In addition to participating in the study for herself, Cator said she wanted to be a part of the research that may lead to a cure for the virus, which has claimed more than 3,600 lives just in the state of Ohio.

Often, vaccines are made from a weakened or inactive version of the virus they are designed to deter, but the mRNA-1273 trial vaccine does not contain COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2. It is made from messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), a genetic code that tells cells how to make protein. The hope is the vaccine will trigger antibody production in the body’s immune system.

Since March, more than 300 people have received the trail vaccine with no serious side effects, according to literature from Rapid Medical.

As part of the study, Cator takes her temperature and answers daily questions on an app on her phone.

“Are you nauseous? Do you have a headache today? Does the site where we gave you the vaccination hurt?” Cator recited. She said so far, she hasn’t had any ill effects from the injection. She’s due for her second shot in late August.

Participating in the study comes with compensation — $90 for each injection and around $25 a day for seven days of answering questions on her app. Cator said the pay isn’t a concern, but that participating in the research is “well worth it.”

Other researchers around the globe are racing to create a vaccine.

General stages of development for any vaccine include an exploratory stage, pre-clinical stage, three phases of clinical development, regulatory review, and then manufacturing, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The New York times lists more than 135 vaccines not in clinical trials yet, 18 vaccines in Phase I clinical trials, 12 in Phase II, and six in Phase III. Just one vaccine had been approved for limited use as of Thursday.

It has generally taken about 20 weeks to manufacture a new vaccine for influenza, a different kind of virus than COVID-19. In the 2019 outbreak of the H1N1 flu, a vaccine first became available 26 weeks after the decision to manufacture, according to the CDC.

Most vaccines undergo ongoing studies even after approved and licenced.

Cator said that if another vaccine proves successful, she will be able to be vaccinated despite participating in the Rapid Medical study.

Cator said she found out about the vaccine research because she participated in another trial around 15 years ago, and she’s been on Rapid Medical’s email list ever since. When she heard about the COVID-19 study, she jumped at the opportunity.

Now, she wants others to know that these studies are happening for COVID-19 and other diseases and conditions.

“My point I’m trying to get across is that there’s people they need for the vaccine,” Cator said.

Cator said Rapid Medical expects to start another COVID-19 vaccine study in mid-August. Rapid Medical is also seeking patients for a number of other studies, including anxiety and depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia, insomnia, obesity, and other vaccines, just to name a few.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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