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Tucson doctor ‘honored, humbled’ after clinic selected to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials

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TUCSON (KVOA) - There are new signs of hope on the horizon for those suffering from COVID-19 or worried about loved ones becoming infected while tests for a vaccine continue in Tucson.

"Operation Warp Speed" was launched with the goal of creating a vaccine for COVID-19. While this operation has been making world headlines, the trials are expected to continue in the Old Pueblo with the Quality of Life Medical and Research Center taking on hundreds of cases.

The fact that he could play a major part in developing a vaccine drove Tucson's own, Dr. John McGettigan to tears.

"That's why I got into medicine, to be able to make a difference," said McGettigan. "And this way, I can possibly make a huge difference."

McGettigan is the owner of Tucson's Quality of Life Medical and Research Center. The facility is currently conducting Phase III trials of Moderna's MRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccine.

"For me personally, this is the second most important thing that's happened in my medical career," said McGettigan.

The Quality of Life Medical and Research Center, located on Tucson's east side, is hoping to get more volunteers for the study who are first responders.

"I will kind of be leaning towards getting the vaccination," said potential volunteer for the study, Tomas Silvera.

When asked to describe his inner feeling about the fact that a study in Tucson that he's heading up could literally save millions of lives, McGettigan said simply, "it's just a big honor."

The results of the first two phases of the vaccine trial were just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In all, 30,000 people will be tested in Phase III nationwide. There could be as many as 1,000 of those trials taking place in Tucson.

The Quality of Life Medical and Research Center on Tucson's is one of 87 clinics nationwide that will be conducting trials for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The tests for the Phase III trials of Moderna's MRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccine will continue for two years. This will include follow-up studies.

"We were extremely humbled and honored to be selected," said McGettigan. "I think all of this is very hopeful. That this one or some of the ones that are in trials are going to be the answer. It's definitely going to increase antibodies, which is what we need to fight the disease."

Jennifer Haller is a volunteer taking part in the vaccine study.

"I'm very encouraged by these results," Haller said. "I think it shows that they're on the right track with this vaccine. And also, it is really exciting that there are many other vaccine trials going on all across the world."

McGettigan added, "I'm confident we'll get a vaccine. Whether this will be the final candidate or not, that's why we're doing the research study. This particular vaccine, for me, looks particularly exciting for lots of different reasons."

The clinic is looking for volunteers in the Old Pueblo to take part in the study. For more information, email Covid19@QLMC.com

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Paul Cicala

Paul Cicala is a 2-time winner of the prestigious”Edward R. Murrow Award” for his reporting/anchoring in news & sports. Paul Cicala has also been nominated for multiple EMMY’s. Cicala has won the “Best Sportscaster” category in Tucson the last five years (voted on by readers of “Tucson Weekly”). Cicala is a native Tucsonan who specialized in border stories during his earlier career as a news reporter in this market, and now concentrates mainly on sports stories (with an occasional special report and/or feature story on life in Tucson & the Sonoran Desert).

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