University of Arizona studies if vaccinated people can spread coronavirus

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 6:10 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is trying to find out if vaccinated people can spread the coronavirus. College students are being recruited for a new study that may determine if fully vaccinated people need to continue wearing masks or social distancing.

“We’re really hopeful that this will give us the answers in order to get back to normal life,” said Dr. Liz Connick, MD, the chief of the UA Arizona College of Medicine.

Research has proven the vaccines are effective at preventing the disease, but Dr. Connick said the new study will determine if the shot stops a person from transmitting the virus to others.

“If we find they don’t develop asymptomatic infection, that would be the conclusion. They could be maskless in public,” she said.

Dr. Connick said it’s the most intensive study of its kind. Participants will be tested daily. One group will receive the vaccine immediately, while the others will wait a few months.

“College students are great people to do it in. We only select healthy ones. They’re at low risk of having severe disease. In fact, they often have asymptomatic infections,” Dr. Connick said.

She said students come into contact with many people day to day which will help researchers see if they’re spreading the virus.

“We’re functioning right now in a vacuum of evidence is what we call it in the science world. To have a research study that proves, as a vaccinated person, I can’t transfer the virus, that would be fantastic,” said Dr. Sean Elliott, MD, a TMC Pediatric Infectious Disease Doctor.

Dr. Connick said she expects the study will start finding results in about six months. However, until researchers learn more, health experts recommend everyone continue to social distance and mask up in public. The University of Arizona is one of 20 universities across the nation participating in the research.

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