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Op-Ed: Our Region Can Make COVID-19 Vaccine Happen

 

The following op-ed is written by Tim Schroeder, chief executive officer of CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting, a firm based in Covington

We in Greater Cincinnati/NKY should be proud of our region’s role in the fight against COVID-19. From patient care to supply chain support, from testing kits to the development and manufacturing of treatments, we have played a major part in combatting the pandemic – not just here – but around the world. 

In the heart of the Midwest, we have patient care and ground-breaking research that rivals hospitals around the world. Our health systems have provided unmatched care to patients who were critically ill with COVID-19. The workers at systems including The Christ Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Mercy Health Cincinnati, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, TriHealth, and University of Cincinnati, have displayed courage, empathy, and dedication throughout the pandemic. We as a community have been beneficiaries of the remarkable efforts of these teams. 

Long-time community giants such as Proctor & Gamble and Kroger have maintained supply chains to the world, providing vital food, cleaning supplies, and protective equipment. Their workers, many local, have worked around the clock to ensure communities across the nation had the necessary supplies to quarantine at home or, for essential workers, to continue doing their jobs safely. 

Innovative laboratory support and testing for both patient care and Coronavirus research around the country has been provided by Gravity Diagnostics, Medpace Labs, Meridian Bioscience, and PPD Labs, all of which call this area home. A West Chester Township manufacturing plant owned by drug maker Astra Zenica is being retrofitted to manufacture one of the experimental vaccines. CTI Clinical Trials and Consulting is currently conducting research of more than a dozen COVID-19 treatments across the globe, and have been able to include many of the local hospitals in our studies. 

Our region has been very fortunate to have early stage funding organizations including CincyTech, RiverCities Capital and family investment funds that have made it possible for start-up biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies like Aerpio, Airway Therapeutics, and Bexion Pharmaceuticals to flourish and push medicine forward, some of which may ultimately benefit COVID-19 patients.

Regional groups have also made large strides to combat the financial impact of the crisis and support the efforts of the sectors previously described. For example, in March, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber pivoted its operations to support businesses and the Cincinnati regional economy in the wake of the pandemic. The Chamber, in partnership with the Cincinnati Business Committee/Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, launched RESTART, a group of business leaders working to guide the work of the business community in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The group is acting as the business voice in the coordination of community efforts, playing a leadership role to keep our economy working during this uncharted time and into the future. RESTART has made healthcare a pillar of the future success of our community, prioritizing the health of local residents while working to overcome the economic challenges of the pandemic. The identification of healthcare as a pillar of success is well founded, as we have some of the most advanced, sought-after organizations in our backyard and they are making a difference in saving lives. 

Important advances have occurred over the last few months and many more will appear that are just over the horizon.

The ultimate goal is to develop one or more vaccines to prevent the development of COVID-19, especially for those people who are at higher risk. This region has a rich history in being at the forefront of vaccine development, dating back to the original research of Dr. Albert Sabin on the Polio vaccine, more than 60 years ago, right here in Cincinnati. We have been a leader in vaccine development before, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to demonstrate to the world how Cincinnati and the Tri-state region can do so again. 

To do this, we need your help.

Already Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has been chosen as one of five research centers in the country to participate in one of the first COVID-19 vaccine trials sponsored by Pfizer, and the CTI team is bringing more clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines to the area. To complete these current and future trials and to bring a vaccine to the world, we need the public’s participation.

Our team has been tasked with identifying 10,000 volunteers to be in these studies. We will partner with all the healthcare organizations mentioned above to make this happen. 

We are looking for healthy adult volunteers, elderly subjects, and immunocompromised subjects, including cancer patients and transplant patients. We also anticipate enrolling subjects that have been previously infected with COVID-19. If you’d like to volunteer, please call 513-721-3868, text 513-854-3370 or visit CTIFACTS.COM/SIGNUP. 

This is our time to demonstrate to everyone what we have known for a long time – that this is a great place to work and live, and that we’re capable of changing the world. 

It is our time. Let’s make it happen.