HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey hospital is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, and looking for volunteers.

However, as CBS2’s Cory James reported, a local mayor is warning people about it.

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Dr. Ihor Sawczuk is now on the other side of medicine. This time, he’s on a hospital bed, as a patient for a volunteer COVID-19 vaccine trial at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“I don’t know what to expect,” said Dr. Sawczuk.

It’s an unusual feeling for a physician who often has the answers. Sawczuk is hoping to find them as the first person to ever receive this injection for the clinical test.

He said his decision to participate was professional and personal.


“I’ve had friends that developed COVID-19, I’ve had friends that passed away from COVID-19,” said Sawczuk.

The hospital is taking part in a national COVID trial, co-developed by drug maker Moderna and the National Institute of Health.

The study looks at the MRNA-1273 vaccine which, according to experts, does not have any coronavirus particles.

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Thirty-thousand volunteers are needed for the experiment. The hospital in Hackensack is hoping to enroll 300 people.

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“COVID-19 was a war zone when it happened and we cannot have that again,” said Dr. Bindu Balani, who is overseeing the hospital’s study.

The new trial, however, is being met with skepticism.

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Newark Mayor Ras Baraka released a statement out of concern for African Americans and people of color that read in part, “… the City of Newark cannot and did not authorize for any residents to partake in the research… The reality is that COVID-19 is still hurting and killing people of color, which makes the entire scenario problematic.”

Dr. Balani said diversity in the study is crucial to saving lives.

“We had a very negative outcome of patients of color… by getting this particular disease, had a higher rate of mortality,” said Balani. “If this is a way that we can prevent this particular vaccine from impacting that community, I think it’s a must do.”

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This is only the start of Phase One of the trial, which looks at side effects and efficacy. Volunteers will go through three phases and be monitored for two years.

CBS2 was told those who are chosen for the study will receive a stipend of about $600.

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