The Race to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Will Now Run Through Wisconsin



By Julian Emerson

August 31, 2020

UW Health and UW’s med school will be involved in phase 3 trials to find the right formula to halt the coronavirus.

UW Health and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are among the first sites in the country chosen to study whether a newly-developed vaccine can prevent COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the highly-contagious coronavirus that has killed more than 180,000 people in the United States. 

The university is one of 100 clinical sites in the U.S. to participate in the trial that will begin this week, officials announced Monday, meaning Wisconsin will play a role in the race to develop the first effective vaccine for the virus. 

Approximately 2,000 people will be enrolled in the study at University Hospital during the next eight weeks. The vaccine is being tested on about 30,000 people in the U.S. and at other sites worldwide. 

“UW Health and SMPH are proud to be at the forefront of working toward identifying safe, effective solutions to this global pandemic,” Betsy Nugent, chief clinical research officer at UW Health and SMPH, said in a news release. “Our entire team has been working diligently for months to bring this important clinical trial to our state, and now Wisconsinites have an opportunity to be part of solving this crisis.”

The study is a phase 3 trial, the level to ensure the validity of developmental vaccinations and other medicines. Study participants will receive two injections of either the vaccine or a placebo. 

Once injected into a subject, the vaccine will make COVID-19, prompting the immune system to produce antibodies and T cells to fight the virus. Following treatment, the study will last about two years and participants will be periodically tested to assess their health. 

Study participants must be at least 18 years old healthy or have medically stable chronic diseases. They also cannot have a previously confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. 

People interested in learning more about participating in the study can do so by emailing [email protected], calling the hotline at 608-262-8300 or 833-306-0681, or by visiting

The UW will help determine whether an experimental vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca can keep people from contracting the virus that has spurred a pandemic and infected more than 25 million people globally and killed nearly 847,000, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine figures. 

In the United States, nearly 6 million cases have been confirmed and more than 183,000 have died. Those totals are 75,337 confirmed cases and 1,122 deaths in Wisconsin.

The UW study is part of a global effort to develop a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization, 172 countries, including China and Russia, are working to develop vaccines, including four clinical trials currently in the U.S. 

Vaccine development typically can take 10 years or longer, but the process has been accelerated in hopes of coming up with a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next year. 

Cases of the virus in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S. have continued to climb in recent months even as some states, including Wisconsin, have adopted measures such as face mask mandates to slow the virus’ spread. Concerns about COVID-19 have grown in recent weeks as a new school year begins, prompting worries about virus outbreaks. 

Development of a virus is viewed by experts as the most effective means of significantly decreasing the virus’ presence and ending the pandemic. However, many Americans have said they’re not necessarily willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, especially when it first comes on the market, as some people question its safety. 




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