El Paso native part of team conducting Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)– For El Paso native Hasmin Ramirez, her love for studying public health and epidemiology encouraged her to pursue a graduate program at George Washington University. However, she never thought she’d be part of a historic nationwide effort to develop and test a safe, effective vaccine during a pandemic.

Hasmin Ramirez, Graduate Student-Epidemiology at the Milken Institute of Public Health.

“It has been very fast-paced but it has been a great experience working with a diverse group of individuals who are very dedicated to ending this pandemic,” Ramirez said.

The Parkland High School graduate detailed her experience after working with the trial.

George Washington University is one of at least 100 sites in the United States, serving as a Phase 3 clinical trial site for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“That paved the way for the emergency use administration approval by the FDA and just itself it paved the way for vaccine trials in general,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez is a graduate student in Epidemiology at the Milken Institute of Public Health. She said the university began conducting the trial in July 2020, where she served as a recruiter to find participants in the D.C. Metropolitan area to participate in the trial. She also works with data entry.

With part of her efforts, 349 volunteers enrolled in the University’s trial and 50% came from communities of color.

“With my background being from El Paso and speaking Spanish, I got a chance to translate for participants, which was really rewarding,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez detailed what it was like to work on the historic trial while also seeing how the virus was heavily impacting her hometown and in desperate need of a solution.

“Of course at the beginning of the pandemic, D.C. and big cities like New York City were heavily impacted by the pandemic itself and then as it rolled out, it started to hit to hit closer to home, literally,” Ramirez said. “So seeing that, it kind of lit a fire, it fuels your want to actually see something being done.”

The virus heavily impacted El Paso, a community that saw the Convention Center turned into a treatment center, more than 100,000 confirmed cases, nearly 1,500 deaths and mobile morgues brought into the City as result of the virus.

“Seeing that kind of lit a fire in me, it fuels your want to see something being done,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez calling the emergency approval of the Moderna vaccine a historic victory, not just for the team, but for the people and her loved ones back home.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how our work and our dedication to ending this pandemic actually plays out with having an impact with our communities,” Ramirez said.

She said she is in her final semester of her graduate program, but hopes to continue work with the trial afterwards and take what she’s learned during the trial to other communities.

“As far as pandemic goes, with the education I gained over the past year and a half to bring that knowledge back not just to people in my surrounding area, but also my community back home in El Paso.

The Moderna vaccine clinical trial is a two-year trial where the University will monitor participants over that course.

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