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Should I take part in a COVID-19 clinical trial?

An older, bearded man looks at the camera.

Clinical trials are used to find out if a new test, drug or other treatment works and is safe. Many of the COVID-19 clinical trials currently underway are seeking a vaccine for the virus. Others are looking at possible treatments for the disease.

Choosing to volunteer is a personal decision. But here are some things to think about if you're considering it.

Why take part in a clinical trial?

According to the National Institutes of Health, healthy people who sign up for clinical trials often say they want to help other people. Volunteering can help researchers find better treatments for diseases like COVID-19.

And if you have COVID-19, a clinical trial may give you access to treatments that aren't widely available yet.

Why diversity matters

COVID-19 has been shown to more severely affect Black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American people. But in most clinical trials, members of those groups are underrepresented.

In order to find effective treatments that work for everyone, it's important that clinical trials reflect the diversity of the population most affected by the disease.

Clinical trials also need people of almost all ages. And they need both those who are healthy and those who have health conditions. The researchers can tell you whether your particular health condition might exempt you from a specific study.

Are clinical trials safe?

There are risks. But safety is a top concern for researchers. Most clinical trials in the U.S. are monitored by an institutional review board. This independent group reviews the proposed trial methods and makes sure the benefits outweigh the risks. Before joining a trial, you should ask if it was reviewed by one of these boards.

You'll also learn about possible risks and benefits of the trial through the informed consent process. Staff will walk you through details about the study, including tests or procedures that may be part of the research. You can't be enrolled in a study without your consent.

And if you become ill during the study, the staff will make sure you get the healthcare you need.

What is volunteering like?

According to the COVID-19 Prevention Network, most volunteers for COVID-19 studies will need to come to a research site for 10 or more visits over a one- to two-year period. They are usually paid for their time.

Most COVID-19 studies require you to get either an injection (such as a vaccine) or an infusion (given through an IV tube). To keep the study unbiased, you most likely won't know if you're getting the real thing or a placebo. You'll need to keep track of how you feel and report any side effects right away.

Your participation is always voluntary. You can choose to leave the trial at any time.

Want to know more? You can learn about COVID-19 trials currently underway and register as a volunteer through the COVID-19 Prevention Network.

Reviewed 1/6/2021

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