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"Easier than having an injection" | Trials underway in Knoxville for COVID-19 vaccine pill

Would more people get the vaccine if it came in a pill instead of a shot? One company hopes they will, and the trials are happening in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A local company is holding trials for a COVID-19 vaccine pill which would give people a choice of taking a pill instead of getting a shot. American Medical Response in Knoxville is in the midst of Phase 1/Phase 2 trials for the vaccine. 

The pills include a new coating that makes it possible to be administered a vaccine without an injection.

"The proteins that are used to stimulate the immune response are wrapped in some particles that prevent it from being degraded by stomach acids," said Dr. Bill Smith, the CEO of AMR Knoxville. "Until it is actually able to be absorbed by the gut."

After the first two phases of the trial, Dr. Smith said "several thousand" people will be part of Phase 3 of the vaccine trial before the CDC and FDA study the data ahead of approval. 

"They're more receptive to taking a pill versus the injection," said Talya Thomas, the Clinical Research Coordinator for AMR Knoxville. 

Thomas administers the pills to people in the trials. She said they know the feeling of injections from previous vaccinations and would rather take the pill. 

"This is obviously a whole lot easier than having an injection," Dr. Smith said. 

Dr. Smith said he hopes people who are vaccine-hesitant will take the pill instead. 

"I definitely think more people are receptive to pills," said Dr. R. Michael Green, a local internal medicine practitioner. "People feel more in control with an oral med."

Dr. Smith said if these trials go well, other vaccines could be made with this type of technology. 

AMR Knoxville is still looking for other participants in their trial. They are asking anyone interested in participating in trials to call 865-305-DRUG (3784). 

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