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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Nearly one month after announcing its role in the Pfizer and BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine study, University Hospitals is nearing the halfway point to reach its goal of participants.

Dr. Robert Salata, Chair of the Department of Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center is leading the vaccine trial at University Hospitals.

“There’s a new amendment now in place that we’ll start to push for next week, which will allow enrollment down to the ages of 16 and there’s no upper age limit,” said Dr. Salata.

He reports no worrisome side effects in the 118 participants enrolled. The study at University Hospitals aims to recruit 250 people as a part of the larger global study.

“The total intended recruitment initially was 30,000 they recently increased the numbers to 44,000 so we can really start to recruit and pivot now to people at highest risk for developing COVID-19 and its complications as well as underrepresented minorities which are disproportionately effected by severity of disease and death,” said Dr. Salata.

If a the vaccine is approved and developed by the years end Dr. Salata said it may not be widely available to the majority of the general public well into 2021, a sentiment shared by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.

“This takes two separate injections about three weeks apart so even if they have a 100 million vaccines available by December that’s only going to be sufficient to vaccinate 50 million individuals,” Dr. Salata said.

For now gaining public trust in a vaccine is key to ultimately beating the virus. 

“Some numbers place this at 50 percent would readily receive the vaccine,” he said. “Another 25 percent are uncertain, 25 percent say no way.” 

Dr. Salata said several of the hospitals’ top leadership has taken the vaccine being studied as a show of faith. He said he would participate as a patient in an upcoming vaccine trial.

“We are looking potentially at starting another trial vaccine trial here for which I will not be involved and yes, I will volunteer myself because I believe in this,” he said.

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