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COVID 19: Research and Vaccine Development

March 10, 2021

When the first novel coronavirus infection in the United States was identified in January 2020, almost nothing was known about the virus and how to treat it. Over the course of the year, a stunning amount of research in the U.S. and internationally has created a comprehensive base of knowledge about COVID-19 and its prevention and treatment and has led to the development of several effective vaccines.

Educators, researchers, and clinicians from across Yale University played key roles in these remarkable efforts. At Yale Medicine, our physicians helped unlock mysteries about how the virus works, why it affects people differently, how to predict the severity of symptoms in patients, and much more.

We are especially proud of the role that Yale Medicine, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI), and Yale New Haven Health have played in Phase 3 clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, one of 150 clinical testing locations for the vaccine around the world. Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, is the principal investigator for the Yale clinical trials.

One of the most important aspects of Yale’s Pfizer vaccine trials has been the work of YCCI’s Cultural Ambassadors program, founded a decade ago to recruit more diverse populations for clinical trials. More than 40 percent of the participants in YCCI’s Pfizer vaccine trials have been people of color. These efforts helped ensure that Black and Latino populations, which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, played a significant role in vaccine development.

Thoughts From the Front Lines

Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCH, FACP, FIDSA

Associate Professor of Medicine (AIDS), Specialist in Infectious Diseases

Principal investigator of the Pfizer-BioNTech (and Remdesivir) clinical trial at Yale School of Medicine, Yale Center for Clinical Investigation

"Though the COVID pandemic took everyone by surprise—individuals, hospitals and health systems, public health officials, and governments alike—it also ushered in an unprecedented era of cooperation and innovation from the private and public sectors and the medical community. This public health crisis has been the mother of invention. Scientists worked—and are still working—day and night on new drug therapies. In the face of the pandemic, we’ve seen that the scientific community is able very quickly to learn and to problem-solve, moving clinical trials (which can take years) through the process so we can get treatments and vaccines to the people who need them."

Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MHS

Assistant Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases), Director of Population Health

As Director of Population Health for Yale Medicine, Dr. Roy is co-chair of the Yale COVID-19 Vaccine Program.

"By definition, population health needs to be a collaborative effort, and our YM and YNHHS teams have been working closely together for years. With regard to the COVID vaccine, our work is informed by an awareness that people don’t define themselves by the clinics they go to, but rather as people. Our work is to find ways to connect with them and address the concerns they have, given the goals we are trying to reach. Our goal, collectively, is to get 75-85% of our population vaccinated."

Find links to related content in the Appendix

Next article: Supporting Our Colleagues During COVID-19

Submitted by Barbara Steinberger on February 24, 2021