A McAllen clinic is participating in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine and is currently recruiting patients for the studies which are slated to begin at the end this month.

Valley Medical Arts Clinic is partnering up with Centex Studies Inc. to conduct two vaccine trials, each manufactured by a different pharmaceutical company — Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The group is looking for individuals 18 years or older but preferably people who are considered to be at high risk for contracting the coronavirus disease, according to Joanna Gurrola, clinical research coordinator for Centex and thus the person in charge of all the clinical trials there.

“For both of the studies we’re looking for patients that are at higher risk which means that they’re older or they have an extensive medical history,” Gurrola said, “and that’s what’s considered at high risk because if they do end up contracting COVID, the risks of them potentially ending up in the hospital are higher.”

She added that the clinics that are participating in both of those studies are pretty much located in hotspots like the Rio Grande Valley that are experiencing a high volume of COVID-19 cases.

The Moderna trial will consist of 500 patients that will be recruited locally. The AstraZeneca study, though — which is government funded — they need about 1,800 patients, likely recruited from multiple locations.

Half of the participants will receive the actual vaccine while the other half will receive a placebo. However, the studies will be double-blind meaning neither the participants nor the researchers will know who gets which.

Each patient will get two doses, the first will be on Day 1 of the study and the second will be on Day 29.

The Moderna study will last two years but Gurrola said they are hoping to have it available for the public by December.

“The reason why the patients are on the study for two years is because after they get their second dose of vaccine, the other visits are just safety visits — just to follow the patient and make sure that there’s no long term reactions to the medication,” she said.

The trial for the Moderna vaccine, the mRNA-1273 vaccine, is currently in its third phase for which there is an expected enrollment of 30,000 participants nationwide, according to a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies around the world.

The site lists the McAllen Centex site as the only trial site in the Valley.