Wanted: Volunteers willing to risk getting sick from the coronavirus for the greater good

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The Covid-19 Prevention Network, which knits together the existing federal clinical trial infrastructure developed largely to test HIV vaccines and treatments, launched with a website for volunteers to sign up to be considered when the first trials begin later this month.

The scientific effort to develop a covid-19 vaccine will depend on tens of thousands of volunteers in a gargantuan scientific, medical and logistical undertaking.

Testing a vaccine is a conceptually simple idea, but it is a careful and methodical process that unfolds through a phased system of trials that grow progressively larger. Early clinical trials, some of which have reported encouraging results, assess the right dose of the vaccine and monitor for any safety concerns in dozens, or a few hundred patients. But the ultimate test of these vaccines will be large trials designed to test whether they are effective at preventing or reducing the severity of the disease.

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The first late-stage vaccine trial, in which 30,000 people will be randomly assigned to receive either an experimental vaccine made by the biotechnology company Moderna or a placebo, is expected to begin in the second half of July. There are expected to be at least five such large vaccine trials conducted through the network over the coming months — as well as trials of other preventive measures, such as monoclonal antibody drugs.

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