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Nationwide trial launched at CU Boulder studies whether vaccines prevent transmission of COVID-19

The trial involving 12,000 college-aged students across the country will last five months.

BOULDER, Colo. — A new nationwide trial that kicked off at CU Boulder aims to find whether COVID-19 vaccines also prevent the transmission of the virus.

"We need to understand what does it truly mean when you’re vaccinated," said Chris DeSouza, a professor at CU Boulder in the Department of Integrated Physiology and Co-Director of the study at CU. "This will go well beyond the borders of CU and the United States. It has global implications."

The study aims to determine how effective the Moderna vaccine is at preventing transmission of the virus.

As schools work to bring students back to campus and keep them there, the study taking place at 21 universities around the country will sign up 12,000 college-aged students to be monitored over the next several months. Half will get the vaccine, the others know they aren’t getting it yet. Both groups will be tested multiple times a week to see if they’re infected. The results could be key to returning to normal.

"With the data with how these vaccines are working, we are very hopeful that it’s also preventing transmission," said DeSouza. "This has implications for global travel. This has implications for corporations that want to get back to in-person meetings, international meetings."

Osvaldo Villagrana already got his first shot. He’s one of 700 students who will take part in the study at CU Boulder. 

"When I went in, I was a little scared like anybody else. I thought the needle was going to be big," said Villagrana. "I hope everything goes back to normal soon so students who are planning to come here can do in class instead of online."

Students who are chosen to be part of the group that doesn’t get the vaccine immediately can still get vaccinated after the study is over.

Researchers say college campuses are the perfect location for the study because of student’s constant interaction with one another.

"We’re hoping that all of this will help with getting us back to pre-pandemic normal," said DeSouza. "I can’t say enough about the students at CU and their generosity and time."

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