Volunteers needed for Texas A&M COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial

Texas A&M University researchers are expanding their recruitment of volunteers for a late-stage, phase 4 clinical trial of an existing tuberculosis vaccine that could blunt the devastating effects of COVID-19.

The scientists leading the trial, which began in late April, have recruited hundreds of medical workers and first responders as volunteers in the College Station and Houston areas and are now accepting volunteers from the Austin and Dallas areas. In addition, front-line workers including teachers, wait staff, older adults, and other high-risk individuals are also now eligible to volunteer for the study. 

Medical professionals, first responders, front line workers and any high risk individuals interested in volunteering for the trial can visit the website for more information and to sign up.


The Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) is leading a group of scientists and medical doctors with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to repurpose the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination.

BCG has been widely used across the world for nearly 100 years to treat tuberculosis and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bladder cancer. Because the drug is already FDA approved, the trial can skip three phases of clinical trials usually required before testing on people, since this vaccine has already passed those phases.


A total of 1,800 volunteers are needed as the researchers hope to demonstrate that the BCG vaccine can be a therapeutic for COVID-19 and mitigate the effects of the virus, allowing fewer people to be hospitalized or die from the disease.

As there are many vaccine trials currently being conducted, Jeffrey Cirillo, PhD, director of the Center for Airborne Pathogen Research and Imaging at Texas A&M Health and lead project investigator, says in a news release that although the BCG vaccine may not be what people think of as a traditional vaccine, it may act as a booster to any vaccine that is developed. He states that other studies have shown that BGC can boost the strength of other vaccines such as the flu vaccine. 

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“In fact, when you consider that most antibody responses seen for most of the vaccines being tested only last two to three months and BCG lasts as long as 10 years, the combination of BCG first followed by one of the specific vaccines is the most likely to provide protection that lasts long enough to get us out of this pandemic,” Cirillo said.

In addition to the vaccine trial, Cirillo’s team is also researching the cognitive effects of COVID-19. Evidence shows that the coronavirus can cause damage to a patient’s central nervous system, and it even might cause long-term effects that could lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Cirillo said the potential for lasting effects from COVID-19 is another reason to get the vaccine to the public as quickly as possible.