Michigan hospital helped test Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 6:52 PM EST
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DETROIT, Mich. (WJRT) - A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. is yielding extraordinarily strong early results and Michigan is playing a key role in the testing process.

The diversity of Detroit’s population attracted the creators to use the area for testing.

Some 700 of Moderna’s 30,000 volunteers to test the vaccine are from the Metro Detroit area. The tests with either the real experimental vaccine or a placebo were administered by the Henry Ford Health System, where doctors are eager to help find way to help as the pandemic enters a terrible new phase.

“From our perspective here at Henry Ford and in Detroit, one of the things that we’re very, very grateful about is the participation of residents from around the communities in Detroit and southeast Michigan," said Dr. Paul Kilgore, the co-principal investigator for Henry Ford Health System.

For Moderna Chief Development Officer Melanie Iverson, using Detroit as a testing site was important because of the opportunity to test the vaccine on multiple ethnicities and minorities.

“And in particular, the Henry Ford Health System site did an incredible job recruiting over 9% of the participants that they recruited were from the African-American community," she said. "Just under 8% were from the Hispanic community and we have nearly 7% from the Asian community in that trial.”

Preliminary data from an ongoing study shows Moderna’s vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective. For doctors involved at Henry Ford, the quest for a cure is personal.

“Unfortunately, in the very beginning of the pandemic, one of the youngest members of Michigan to pass away was our little cousin Skyler, at the age of 5," said Dr. Kellie McFarlin, who participated in the trial. "So we were really pretty devastated by that information that she developed a rare complication from COVID and that really stuck with our family is reaching out to what we could do to make a difference in our community and fighting the COVID pandemic.”

A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine which is said to be 90% effective. Pfizer filed an application for emergency use of its vaccine on Tuesday and Moderna is expected to follow within weeks.

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