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St. Louis doctor among the first to test COVID-19 vaccine

St. Louis University is part of 90 sites studying the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine efficacy

ST. LOUIS — The first subjects of Saint Louis University's COVID-19 vaccine trial received their shots Friday morning at the Center for Vaccine Development on S. Grand. 

Among them, was SSM Health's chief medical officer, Dr. Alex Garza. "It was just a needle in the arm and away you go," he said cheerfully.

While it may have felt like any other immunization to Dr. Garza, it certainly wasn't. That shot was part of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Trial. 

Dr. Frey is the SLU site's principal investigator, working with 90 other sites to test the possible vaccine. "One of the things we are trying to do in this study is to see how well the vaccine works to prevent disease," Dr. Frey explains, "not only disease but severe disease."

Her colleague, Dr. Garza, is now part of the study. As a promoter of vaccination, he believes it's important to contribute to the science behind them. 

"We make all of our recommendations based off of best evidence and in order to have the best evidence we need to do trials like these," Dr. Garza tells 5 On Your Side. "So it's really my small way of contributing to the science for an effective vaccine."

He hopes more people will join him, especially those at greater risk for COVID-19.

 "We need to recruit more people from the black community, the Hispanic community and Native Americans. Those are all high-risk groups for both contracting the disease, but also for having some poor outcomes."

The million-dollar question now, if it works, when will it be ready for everyone?5 On Your Side asked Dr. Frey and she said, " Everybody wants to know the answer to this. I will say this about it, we are still in the midst of enrolling the study."

 So it's only the beginning, but Dr. Garza is hopeful. He says there is varying opinion on when the vaccine will be ready, anywhere from the end of this year to the spring of next year. 

"A lot of it depends on how well the trials go, how fast you can recruit," Dr. Garza explains, "all of those other things that play into when you can make that declaration, yes this is the vaccine we need to use and we can get it out into the public."

 To volunteer for the study visit Saint Louis University's Center for Vaccine Development website