Here’s how a research study to test for antibodies might normally go: participants who sign up go to a medical office and get their blood drawn. Depending on the type of study, they might have to go back and forth multiple times over a few months. It takes logistics, scheduling, and too much time in probably too cold waiting rooms.
But a new COVID-19 vaccine booster study tried a new — and more badass and / or gross, depending on how squeamish you are — approach. This study did not require anyone to make an appointment with a doctor to check their antibodies. Instead, the process was DIY: people drew their own blood at home.
The study, done by Moderna researchers, was checking the antibody levels of people who received three Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses (the regular series and a booster) compared to three Pfizer doses. It sent participants a device called the TAP II, which is made by the company YourBio.
A video is available on the company site to show how it all works. People warm up their skin and then stick on a small plastic device with a plunger on the top and a collection tube sticking out the bottom. They press down on the plunger and blood starts to fill the tube. (The device is only able to be used in research right now and is not cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. )
Over 800 people signed up for the Moderna study, and each used the TAP II to collect their blood at home. They collected samples when they signed up, after one month, and then after a second month. People who received three Moderna shots had higher antibodies than those who received three Pfizer shots.
The findings were interesting for Moderna, who funded the research and conducted it. It has not yet been peer reviewed. It’s also proof of concept that home research can be done fast, the authors stated. This could allow for greater access. Research groups face constant challenges convincing people to enroll in studies. It can also be difficult for them to keep coming back to appointments. It could be easier to let patients do all the work at their own pace.
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