PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — UPMC says the response has been overwhelming after asking for volunteers for an experimental coronavirus vaccine trial.

Just last week, UPMC put out the call for 750 local volunteers to be inoculated with the vaccine under development by the pharmaceutical company Moderna.

On Monday, Dr. Judith Martin, UPMC’s director of clinical trials, says more than 2,000 people have already responded eagerly to do their part.

“We’ve been hearing from people, that have been calling, that they want to do what they can because they want to live longer to see their grandkids grow up, and they want to make a difference so that their grandkids can go to school. And it’s just really heartwarming to hear how the community has responded and it’s exciting to bring the opportunity to the people of Pittsburgh,” said Dr. Martin.

In the race to develop an effective vaccine, Moderna is leading the pack — already having been successful in an initial trial, where all participants developed virus resistant antibodies.

Now, with UPMC’s assistance, they will conduct the first phase 3 trial, injecting some participants with the vaccine and others with a placebo to test its effectiveness.

Sheehan: You’re looking for more at-risk people, right? You’re looking for restaurant workers, hospital, healthcare workers?
Martin: Those are the essential workers, the grocery store workers, the bus drivers, the school teachers, the daycare workers, the health care workers because they’re vulnerable because they’re in communities where they’re more likely to get infections.

They’re also looking for people who at risk for severe infection and the potential for bad outcomes, should they contract the virus. Those volunteers would be people over 65 years old or with underlying conditions such as a heart condition, high blood pressure or diabetes. Once vaccinated, they will be monitored over the course of two years for side effects, tested for antibodies and any evidence of infection.

“This is a research study and we’re looking for volunteers. We’re looking for people who want to do this and we will give them all the information that they need so they can make the right decision for themselves,” Martin said.

Click here for a volunteer form.