Mar 26, 2021 - Health

Study will track COVID transmission among vaccinated college students

UNLV Student Health Center senior pharmacist

UNLV Student Health Center senior pharmacist prepares vaccine. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Scientists launched a National Institutes of Health-backed study with thousands of college students to determine whether Moderna's COVID vaccine can prevent asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Why it matters: The results of the trial could provide vaccinated individuals insight on how careful they really need to be when in close contact with others.

What they're saying: "This is a question of extreme importance," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a press briefing on Friday.

  • "But the prevailing question is when these people get infected, how often is that? If they’re asymptomatic, how much virus do they have in their nose and do they transmit it to people who are their close contacts?" he added.

The state of play: The study, which launched Thursday, is looking for 12,000 college students to volunteer across 21 campuses, including the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina, Texas A&M and Indiana University.

  • Students can sign up here, with multiple ways to participate. "You can finally fall asleep in class, not Zoom," the site says.
  • Half of the volunteers will be randomly selected to receive Moderna's vaccine right away. The other half will receive their shots in roughly four months.
  • Researchers will track the students by having them swab their noses and place the specimen in bar-coded vials for collection. Blood samples will be taken to test for antibodies and tracked through an app.
  • Some student volunteers can get paid almost $1,000 to participate fully.

The bottom line: The results, which are anticipated in September, will equip the public and federal government with science-based evidence on mask use and social distancing post-vaccination.

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