Morehouse School of Medicine Launches New Research Trial to Study COVID-19 Variant Vaccine Regimens

MSM is One of 24 Sites Across the U.S. Participating in the National Institutes of Health Clinical Trial.

ATLANTA – MARCH 31, 2022 – Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) has opened registration for a clinical trial to examine the safety and immune response induced in participants who receive additional mRNA vaccines to address emerging COVID-19 variants. MSM was selected by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as one of 24 sites to conduct the research, which is known as the COVID-19 Variant Immunologic Landscape (COVAIL) trial. MSM has received funding support as an agreement under NIH contract number 75N91019D00024 to Leidos Biomedical Research in Frederick, Maryland.

Potential participants must be 18 years and older and have already received the primary vaccination series (which can include one or two shots depending on the manufacturer) and first booster shot to be eligible. In addition to receiving a new vaccine, they will be asked to track how they feel using paper memory aids and will be compensated for their time. People who are interested in taking part can find out more by emailing the Morehouse School of Medicine Vaccine Trials Unit (VTU) at, completing this survey, or calling 888-788-0644.

"African Americans and other people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is critical that we gauge the effectiveness of vaccines in these populations," said Morehouse School of Medicine President and CEO Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG. "This research effort aligns with our mission to continue to elevate the standard of healthcare and reduce health inequities in underserved communities."

MSM's research will be led by Vaccine Trial Unit Co-Directors Lilly Immergluck, MD, and Erica Johnson, PhD. Dr. Johnson is a translational scientist with an extensive background in immune biology, especially HIV and fetal/maternal health. Dr. Immergluck is a physician scientist and infectious disease specialist who is double board certified in Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases.

The initial focus is on attracting a diverse group of participants to help ensure the study reflects an accurate representation of populations in metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia, which the Vaccine Trials Unit has done successfully in previous trials for the Moderna and Novavax vaccines. MSM aims to recruit at least 200 people. The trial may enroll up to a total of 1,500 participants across all sites nationwide.

The new vaccine trial is the latest in Morehouse School of Medicine's wide spectrum of efforts over the past two years to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest. MSM was one of the first schools to return to campus, enabling its students, faculty, and staff to model the commitment of health care practitioners on the frontlines of the pandemic. In January 2021, as COVID-19 vaccines were first becoming available to the public, MSM hosted leaders of the civil rights movement for a vaccination event to help inspire African Americans to receive the shots. Since then, MSM's National Center for Primary Care has created the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN) to assist and educate people about the pandemic and nearby resources. In August 2021, NCRN launched a mobile app that put this critical information directly in people's hands. Another nationwide effort is the Health Equity Tracker created by the Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) and launched in May 2021. The tracker aims to give a detailed view of health outcomes by race, ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, and other critical factors.

MSM recently received a nearly $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create the HealthWorks program, which will work to boost vaccine confidence across Georgia and a significant portion of Tennessee in partnership with Meharry Medical College in Nashville and ASHLIN Management Group, Inc. In addition, MSM is the lead institution for Georgia CEAL (Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19), a member of the National Institutes of Health that supports statewide efforts to​ conduct urgent community-engaged research and outreach focused on COVID-19; to address misinformation and mistrust; and​ to promote and facilitate inclusion of diverse racial and ethnic populations in clinical trials.​

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About Morehouse School of Medicine

Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation’s number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. Morehouse School of Medicine’s faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master’s degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit or call 404-752-1500.


Amanda Magdalenski
Morehouse School of Medicine