New Study to Track Transmission Among Vaccinated College Students

But that method falls short, because the testing is too infrequent to catch all infections and will not track the spread of the virus to the participants’ contacts, said Dr. Larry Corey, an expert in vaccine development at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a leader of the new study.

“The only way you do that is by very frequent sampling, and we’re covering our bases by doing it every day,” Dr. Corey said. “It’s going to be the most thorough look at the issue.”

The new study will include more than 12,000 college students immunized with the Moderna vaccine at more than 20 universities across the United States. Half of the students will be randomly selected to receive the vaccine right after they are enrolled, while the other half will get the vaccine four months later.

All of the participants will swab their noses daily to check for the virus, provide periodic blood samples to screen for antibodies, and answer questions through an app. Scientists will follow the students for five months.

By monitoring the students so closely, the scientists expect to be able to track infections in the first 24 or 48 hours, and determine how long an infected person may transmit the virus to others, Dr. Corey said. Over time, the scientists expect to ask about 25,500 close contacts of the participants to swab their noses daily for two weeks, provide two blood samples and answer weekly questionnaires.

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