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Volunteers wanted for vaccine trial to prevent respiratory syncytial virus

Sept. 29, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 29, 2022 at 9:21 p.m.

MultiCare physician Dr. Jonathan Staben is enrolling local residents age 65 and older in a trial for a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
MultiCare physician Dr. Jonathan Staben is enrolling local residents age 65 and older in a trial for a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

MultiCare Health System is looking for older adults in Spokane to participate in a global vaccine trial for a respiratory virus that currently has no approved vaccine or treatment.

Respiratory syncytial virus most often affects young children and older people, especially those with other health issues. Each year in the United States, an estimated 177,000 adults 65 and older are hospitalized and 14,000 die from RSV infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“RSV is one of those viruses that people don’t often think about,” said Dr. Jonathan Staben, the trial’s principal investigator and a primary care physician at MultiCare Rockwood Clinic in Cheney. “They’ve heard about influenza, of course, and COVID and pneumonia, but RSV is off the radar for most people.”

MultiCare’s Institute for Research & Innovation, which conducts both clinical trials and outcomes-based research with local physicians, joins about 140 clinics and hospitals around the world participating in this clinical trial.

The trial aims to evaluate the efficacy of Bavarian Nordic’s MVA-BN-RSV vaccine. The vaccine type is a viral vector platform, which was also used for the FDA-approved modern smallpox vaccine, Staben said. Viral vector vaccines use a harmless, modified version of the virus to deliver instructions to the body’s cells for how to recognize and fight the virus.

Between now and Oct. 17, the research institute hopes to enroll 250 participants in the Inland Northwest.

Participants must be 65 or older and able to use a smartphone, laptop or tablet. They also must have no active or recent history of chronic alcohol abuse, no history of autoimmune disease (with some exceptions) and no history of serious reaction to any prior vaccination.

Participants with stable medical conditions with mild to moderate underlying illnesses are encouraged to participate, since RSV can be more severe in those individuals. “We’re actually looking for people that have certain diseases like asthma or COPD,” Staben said. “Those would be great candidates for our trial.”

Dr. Jonathan Staben talks about the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial at the Multcare clinic at Cheney, Washington in June. Now he is overseeing a Phase 3 trial for an RSV vaccine.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Dr. Jonathan Staben talks about the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial at the Multcare clinic at Cheney, Washington in June. Now he is overseeing a Phase 3 trial for an RSV vaccine. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Volunteers will be randomly selected to receive one shot of either the vaccine or a placebo prior to the upcoming RSV season. Trial teams will monitor participants’ health and safety during the RSV season, which typically lasts from December to March.

Participants will need to make one in-person clinic visit followed by monthly telephone check-ins over the following 12 to 24 months. They will also be asked to maintain diaries tracking how they feel. Volunteers may be reimbursed for some expenses incurred while participating in the trial.

“Generally these trials take several years, for not just the trial but then the analysis and FDA approval,” Staben said. The COVID-19 vaccines were ready exceptionally fast because they were given emergency use authorization due to the seriousness of the pandemic.

Since it could be a long time until an RSV vaccine is available, this trial could be a good opportunity for anyone who wants to lower their risk of severe complications from RSV. “Even though it is a placebo-controlled trial, you get a 50% chance of getting a vaccine in an era with no vaccine or treatment,” Staben said.

MultiCare’s research has included over 25 previous vaccine clinical trials, including the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial in January 2021.

“You generally only find these trials at large medical centers or major research universities,” Staben said. “So we are excited that MultiCare’s research institute has grown to the point we are starting to attract these national trials.”

Those interested in signing up for the RSV study can visit vanir-study.com or email research@multicare.org.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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