USF, Tampa General Hospital need 250 volunteers for new COVID-19 vaccine trial

Novavax is now the fifth company in the U.S. to launch a large-scale trial of a COVID-19 vaccine.

University of South Florida Health and Tampa General Hospital are partnering to take part in phase-3 clinical trials and they need local volunteers.

Research physicians are looking for more than 250 people in the Tampa Bay region to take part in the late-stage trial.

USF Health/TGH joins more than 100 sites across the U.S. and Mexico hoping to enroll around 30,000 volunteers for Novavax's investigational vaccine trial.

"The immunological response seems to be very promising," said Dr. Carina Rodriguez, division chief of infectious diseases at USF.

Rodriguez is the principal investigator for the local phase-3 trial. She says they plan to start vaccinations next week. The two injections are administered 21-days apart.

"It is a two to one randomized study, so that means two people receive the vaccine and one person receives the placebo," said Rodriguez.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

Novavax aims to recruit and study a diverse group, with a focus on adults over 65 and those at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

Surging cases across Florida can actually help speed up the trial. Basically, more people in the placebo group could contract the virus, showing how effective the shot is at preventing symptoms and positivity.

"It’s likely going to happen at a quick pace of one to two months," Rodriguez said.

It is a critical step in adding to the global vaccine portfolio. Moderna and Pfizer have already received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and adding more options means more doses and hopefully a quicker end to the pandemic.

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"It’s important just because there is a lot of need for COVID vaccine and different platforms," said Rodriguez. "Some vaccines actually work better for different patient populations, and may have different storage requirements."

The Novavax shot uses a different vaccine science than Pfizer and Moderna's shots and does not require ultra-cold storage, so it should be easier to distribute.

So far, 146,160 in the Sunshine State have been vaccinated for COVID-19, including nearly 33,000 in the Tampa Bay area. Still, it is not a magic bullet and doctors say we all need to be vigilant to slow the spread of the virus.

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"It’s very important that we still recommend to use, you know, to wear a mask, practice social distancing and good handwashing," Rodriguez said.

All Novavax trial participants will be followed for two years to monitor any results or side effects.

Anyone interested in volunteering can get more information at

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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