University of South Florida

USF Health joins national study testing how well COVID-19 vaccine prevents spread of SARS-CoV-2 in young adults

Despite a COVID-19 surge hospitalizing more younger people, the 18-29 age group targeted by the Prevent COVID U trial has the lowest adult vaccination rates

Tampa, FL (July 29, 2021) — The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine has begun enrolling university students and other young adults, including those not planning to be vaccinated, for an expanded nationwide study evaluating coronavirus infection and transmission in people ages 18 through 29. Individuals must not be vaccinated or have a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result before they start the study.

USF Health is one of more than 50 sites across the U.S. participating in the “Prevent COVID U” randomized controlled clinical trial. For this two-arm study using the Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, 6,000 individuals will be randomly selected to receive the vaccine right away at enrollment. Another 6,000 will be randomized to follow local guidance and their preference for vaccination timing or be vaccinated through the study after four months.

Additionally, the expanded study will enroll up to 6,000 young adults who choose not to be vaccinated. This control group will help ensure a large enough group of non-vaccinated people to compare infection and transmission rates with study participants vaccinated right away at enrollment.

Prevent COVID U was designed to test whether, and to what degree, the Moderna vaccine can prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 (including asymptomatic infection), limit virus in the nose, and reduce transmission of the virus from young adults to their close contacts. The study, headquartered at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and conducted through the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), is funded by the federal COVID-19 Response program and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Kami Kim, MD, director of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Division of Infectious Disease, is principal investigator for the Prevent COVID U study at the University of South Florida.

“This study has implications for public health guidance as new COVID-19 variants continue to emerge,” said principal investigator Kami Kim, MD, division director of Infectious Disease and International Medicine at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “It will help us answer critical questions about whether a person can become infected after vaccination, and if the vaccine will stop the virus from spreading to others.”

Dr. Kim emphasized that the 18-to-29 age group has the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate among all adults. This group, including many students on college campuses like USF, are more likely to show no symptoms when infected, so may pass on the virus to less healthy individuals, she added.

“The Delta variant outbreaks in Florida and other states are sending much younger people to the hospital and reports indicate that nearly all are not vaccinated,” Dr. Kim said. “The few vaccinated people who are hospitalized usually have other medical problems, and if tested for COVID-19 antibodies they’ve shown a poor antibody response to the vaccine.”

In Florida, where about 48% of the population is fully vaccinated, officials say the Delta variant is a driving factor in the statewide increase in COVID-19 cases.

All Prevent COVID U participants will complete questionnaires using an eDiary app twice weekly, swab their nose daily for SARS-CoV-2 infection, and provide periodic blood samples. They will also be asked to identify their “close contacts,” such as family members, friends or roommates, who will then be invited to take part in the trial.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vial (for editorial use only). Credit: B.Stefanov-

Credit: B.Stefanov-

At the end of the study, the Moderna vaccine will be offered to all those in the control group in case they change their minds about vaccination. All individuals who choose to be vaccinated will get their second mRNA vaccine dose one month after the first.

All study volunteers will be compensated for their time and participation, even if they never choose to get vaccinated.

For more information, please call (813) 974-4842 or email, or visit to sign up.

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