When it first became apparent that the new coronavirus posed a serious threat to Veterans’ health and safety, VA took steps to accelerate the start of multiple clinical trials designed to find new treatments for COVID-19. We reached out to our Veteran community, their families and friends, asking for volunteers to participate in these studies. Their response was overwhelming.
In less than 75 days, over 50,000 Veterans and others signed up for the VA Coronavirus Research Volunteer List, making themselves available to be called to potentially participate in COVID-19 research on new treatments and vaccines.
Pictured above: Army Reserve Veteran Michele Jones, Navy Veteran Dr. Adam Robinson, Army Veteran Jeremy Wheeler and Marine Corps Veteran John Gutierrez signed up to volunteer for VA Research on COVID-19.
Protecting family and friends
Our volunteers include people like U.S. Army Reserve Veteran Michele Jones, who says she signed up to help protect her family and community. Others volunteered so the rest of us might see life slowly return to normal. So that we may eventually reopen our local businesses and restaurants and fraternal organizations.
They stepped up to protect their country, once again, so that we may eventually embrace our family and friends, safely. They are true heroes.
Clinical trials are beginning to pay off. VA has been involved in testing COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with companies like Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. So far, VA has enrolled well over 1,100 volunteers in vaccine trials at VA sites. Because of the willingness of these volunteers and many others to serve, two vaccines have already been authorized by the FDA for emergency use.
As a result, our most vulnerable Veterans and VA frontline staff are beginning to receive vaccines that will help protect them from COVID-19.
Continuing the fight against COVID-19
However, we’d like to caution that this battle is not yet over. While the first vaccines for COVID-19 are being distributed to high-risk groups across the country, we need to continue our clinical research so that we can answer other vital questions. That’s because one vaccine may not adequately protect all groups of people. Even two vaccines won’t be enough to protect all of our nation’s citizens.
VA has begun recruiting for the Novavax vaccine trial at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan and the Miami VA Healthcare System. We are also recruiting volunteers for the AstraZeneca clinical trial at the Manhattan Campus of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System. If you have already signed up to volunteer but haven’t yet been called, please know there will be ample opportunities to participate in COVID-19 research.
VA is committed to uncovering answers
VA is committed to uncovering answers about COVID-19 and its prevention, treatment, and lon research will continue and for that we’ll need many more volunteers.
We would like to commend our volunteers – not just Veterans, but also their families, friends and VA employees. Because of your willingness to help test new treatments for COVID-19, millions of lives will potentially be saved. That includes some among the 9 million Veterans who rely on VA for their health care needs.
We are moved by your willingness to serve others, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Dr. Richard Stone is Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration. He is a retired Army major general and Veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He was born and raised in Michigan and is a proud alumnus of the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy serves as the Veterans Health Administration Assistant Under Secretary of Health for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks (DEAN). The Office of the DEAN fosters collaboration and knowledge transfer with facility-based educators, researchers, and clinicians within VA and between VA and its affiliates. Prior to her current position, she served as the Executive in Charge for the VHA.