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UGA staffer participates in Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial

Alan Flurry

University of Georgia staff member Doug Lloyd, a systems administrator in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Office of Information Technology, is participating in the two-year Phase 3 trial of the investigational COVID-19 vaccine known as mRNA-1273. An interim analysis of the trial data suggests that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in adults. For Lloyd, the experience provides an opportunity to play a role in ending the pandemic by contributing to the diversity of the vaccine trials.

The mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate was co-developed by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Lloyd is one of 30,000 participants in the Phase 3 human trials of the Moderna vaccine. In Phase 1, 45 healthy individuals received the vaccine candidate, with no placebo or control group; in late May, Phase 2 began, expanding the cohorts of ages participating. For Phase 3, researchers sought a larger, more diverse group to test the vaccine candidate against a placebo group.

“They were looking for diversity in race, as well as diversity in pre-existing conditions,” Lloyd said. “Prior to lockdown in March, I considered myself and my doctor considered me morbidly obese. And I also have high blood pressure, two of the highest risk factors that we were learning about from lab efforts in universities and pharmaceutical companies worldwide.”

Though Lloyd had already decided to participate in the Phase 3 study, and he cited the candor and courage of leaders during the Aug. 4 Campus Conversation on Covid-19 as motivating him to open up further about his own condition and personal issues, as well as his participation in the study.

“Having these pre-existing conditions, I was a little scared and quite concerned, so balancing that with the possibility of a vaccine, I thought I’d like to be part of finding that solution,” he said.

The Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center is one of 100 clinical research sites around the United States participating in the trials and where Lloyd took part in the double-blind study in early August. After blood work and a physical examination, he received a prescription from an Emory physician to get either the placebo or the vaccine candidate.

Lloyd said the injection was similar to a flu shot. He immediately began monitoring his reactions and any side effects through a smart phone application and e-diary. The daily entries on Patient Cloud were supplemented by weekly safety calls from the RN in charge of his case. After a mild headache that first evening and some arm soreness he likened to that after a tetanus shot, Lloyd settled into a routine with the self-monitoring and communication with the clinic.

As UGA stood up campus surveillance testing and emphasized employee wellness programs over the summer, Lloyd decided to participate in both. “One of the things I knew that I could change is my weight,” he said. At one of the weekly training and development courses offered by the university, a suggestion about taking steps during the lockdown to reduce stress and find inner calm struck a chord.

“I pulled the laundry off the treadmill and, using it once a day I’ve been able to shed 40-plus pounds during the pandemic, from walking on the treadmill and some intermittent fasting, to try and take back some of my health. I credit UGA and some of our resources that keep us thinking and engaged about what we can control,” Lloyd said.

The 25-month mRNA vaccine trial consists of two injections – a primary and a booster, which Lloyd returned to Emory to receive in early September. He encountered similar side-effects as with the first injection, including a slight fever that he documented for researchers.

“The next morning, I had no symptoms, but at 8:01 the Emory Vaccine Clinic called to check on me, whether I was okay and needed to come in. From the start they have continued to be preoccupied with my safety.”

A few days before Thanksgiving, Lloyd says that he continues to feel good, and also to abide by CDC guidelines for masking and social distancing despite the possibility of having developed COVID-19 antibodies.

“That was my goal for the surveillance testing as well, to participate from the standpoint of keeping our community healthy but also to provide what the company needs for this trial,” Lloyd said. “I’m trying to be as safe as everyone is keeping me.”

“I have been very proud of Doug's work in Franklin OIT and how he's embraced one of our core values, which is to seek out opportunities to give back to the broader community,” said Beth Woods, executive director of the Franklin College Office of Information Technology. “This is a great example of his commitment put into practice, and it has the potential to help so many people here at UGA, across the state, and around the world.” 

“I want to make sure as many people as possible have first-hand information, so they can make a decision for themselves when the vaccine becomes available,” Lloyd said. “From the perspective of an actual participant, safety has been an absolute priority through this entire process, and clinicians are doing everything possible to make the vaccine safe for all of us.”


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