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SLC research company carried out Moderna, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trials

Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 00:19:04-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City research company is giving a look into their process of carrying out COVID-19 vaccine trials as part of a study now touted as a "pivotal moment" in the development of a vaccine for the virus.

When patients show up to Foothill Family Clinic in Salt Lake City, some of them aren't there for a normal doctor's appointment. Many are involved in studies of vaccines and medications for J. Lewis Research.

Principal Investigator Dr. James Peterson, who is also a family practice physician at Foothill Family Clinic, explained that some offices in the building are dedicated to their research team.

He described the excitement of being a part of the future of medicine.

"You get to be cutting edge, part of what's coming in development. Not just with COVID vaccines, but all sorts of research ongoing," Dr. Peterson said.

Lately, they've been busy carrying out vaccine trials for both Pfizer and Moderna.

Dr. Peterson said they have a longstanding relationship with both companies, which led to them approaching the Salt Lake City research business.

J. Lewis Research then recruited more than 650 people between the two studies and administered either a vaccine or placebo to participants.

Trial participants then charted symptoms and J. Lewis Research collected data that the company then passed on to Pfizer and Moderna.

"There's a cautious optimism that what we are doing is heading in the right direction," Dr. Peterson said. "But you never know until the data comes out."

Pfizer announced earlier this month that the study showed its vaccine candidate is more than 90 percent effective.

On Monday, Moderna released an analysis explaining that its vaccine has an efficacy of 94.5 percent.

Each company conveyed a confidence that their vaccines are closer to widespread distribution. Moderna stated it will submit for an Emergency Use Authorization through the FDA in the coming weeks. Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and 1.3 billion in 2021.

The studies pay each person participating.

Dr. Peterson talked about how they are now looking for parents to sign up children ages 12-17 to be part of the next phase of Pfizer's study, which is administering the vaccine to adolescents.

Even though Utahns made up a small percentage of the tens of thousands involved in each study, participants like Kalita Ford described feeling an importance to pitch in and do her part to end the pandemic.

"It makes us feel like we are doing something besides sitting around worrying in our homes," she said.

Ford was part of the Pfizer vaccine trial. Both studies are ongoing. Ford explained that her next appointment is in March, when she'll be tested for antibodies.

She was happy to hear the news of the huge success rate of the vaccine.

"That was exciting. I thought, 'Wow. Yeah, we're helping with this. It's working. Yay!'" she said. "Yeah, I was excited."

Excited to be part of an international effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine — that took place in a doctor's office right in Salt Lake City.