By Mrinalika Roy
June 22 (Reuters) - U.S. scientists are expanding a government-funded study that aims to directly answer the question of whether Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine curbs the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The study, backed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was launched in March to determine if Moderna's vaccine can prevent coronavirus infection, limit the amount of virus present in the nose and reduce transmission from vaccinated individuals to their close contacts.
It originally was designed to be tested among college students - some of whom would get the vaccine on a delayed basis - but it will now be broadened to adults aged 18-29, including those who choose not to receive a vaccine, the COVID-19 Prevention Network, which is overseeing the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trials, said on Tuesday.
"If our study demonstrates that a COVID-19 vaccine works to prevent infection and transmission of the virus, many more people may decide to get vaccinated, which has huge public health implications," said Dr. Larry Corey, a vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, and principal investigator of the network's operations.
In all, the trial will enroll about 18,000 young adults.
About 6,000 participants will be vaccinated at the time of enrollment, while another 6,000 will receive the vaccine four months later. The remaining 6,000 young adults will be those who choose not to be vaccinated.
More than 40 sites, including universities, health care centers and community organizations across the United States will participate in the expanded study. (Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; editing by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago)