KC-based vaccine trial to focus on underserved communities with mobile unit

Posted at 5:25 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 19:24:18-05

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — As Pfizer announced its COVID-19 vaccine is effective for about 90% of people, there are several other vaccine trials going on — including in the Kansas City area.

Hospitals such as Children's Mercy, the University of Kansas Medical Center and Truman Medical Center are collaborating to use a new tool to help attract more people to the AstraZeneca trial.

A mobile unit will travel to underserved areas around Kansas City and Wichita to reach Black, Latinx and older populations with hopes getting them involved in the COVID-19 vaccine trial.

"We have to be out there in the community and we need to reach out to them. We can’t just expect them to come to hospitals and feel safe. We need to be out in the community to enroll them and to reach out to them, and a mobile unit establishes that," said Dr. Mario Castro, pulmonologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

They are looking for about a thousand people to be part of the trial, and need people from all communities to make sure the vaccine is effective.

"We are not driven by the speed that either politics or the public may want. We all want a vaccine as quickly as possible, but we will only be able to release it when we feel comfortable that it’s safe and effective," said Dr. Barbara Pahud, who works in pediatric infectious diseases at Children's Mercy Hospital.

This mobile unit will be specifically for the AstraZeneca trial.

Doctors are hopeful thanks to promising signs of a viable vaccine in the near future.

"There’s no question that we are excited about the potential of a viable vaccine, but it’s going to be a while before we can get a significant portion of the population vaccinated to have some real impact," added Dr. Mark Steele, chief clinical officer for Truman Medical Center's University Health.

A representative for Pfizer, talked about that company's vaccine earlier Thursday in Jefferson City.

"We are preparing the necessary manufacturing data to submit to the FDA to demonstrate the safety and quality of the vaccine product produced. If all those data are sound, the company expects to seek an emergency use approval from the FDA and then could start distributing the vaccine by the end of the year," said Christine Smith, Chesterfield site lead for Pfizer.

Doctors said Pfizer's vaccine is hopefully the first of many to make it to hospitals.

"We’re hoping that this will really be the start of many different vaccines that will be available to us down the road," Castro said.

Right now, the mobile unit is scheduled to make week-long stops at Truman Medical Centers/University Health Lakewood, Health Partnership in Olathe and sites in the Wichita area.