DUARTE, Calif. — Lupe Duarte was not nervous as she received her COVID-19 vaccination at City of Hope, but the injection was not the highly publicized Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

What You Need To Know

  • Lupe Duarte is a volunteer for City of Hope's COVID-19 vaccine trial

  • Dr. Don Diamond said his team’s vaccine is unique to Pfizer and Moderna’s MRNA technology

  •  It is the fourth vaccine Dr. Diamond has worked on

  • Duarte said she is optimistic an end to the pandemic is finally in sight

“I’m all for science and I’m proud of myself for volunteering. It’s a big step, but I’m completely excited,” Duarte said.

Duarte is the first volunteer in City of Hope’s investigational COVID-19 vaccine trial. City of Hope conducted an interview with her on the media’s behalf because the hospital did not want press on campus during the trials.

Duarte, who is a resident of Glendora, said she raised her hand because she has elderly parents with underlying health conditions and she wanted to play a role in finding an end to this pandemic.

“I think we all have a purpose and my purpose is to be here today to get this vaccine so hopefully they can take a look at how it helps my body,” Duarte said.

While other vaccines are further along in the approval process, lead developer Dr. Don Diamond said his team’s vaccine is unique to Pfizer and Moderna’s MRNA technology.

Dr. Diamond said the City of Hope vaccine uses a harmless virus derived from synthetic components in a new platform that stimulates the body to make antibodies against not only the COVID-19 spike protein, but also generates immunity against a second protein that spurs a stronger T-cell response to prevent infection.

“Our vaccine delivers a more powerful punch,” Dr. Diamond said. “That punch we presume will lead to a more long-lasting immunity so that you’ll be protected year after year.” 

This is the fourth vaccine Dr. Diamond has worked on. He said his team actually finished conceiving this vaccine platform back in January.  

Once the pandemic hit and they saw its application with COVID-19, they jumped into the vaccine race working seven days a week for much of the pandemic.

“What’s remarkable is even though it didn’t take very long for us to get from conception to clinic, there has been such motivation in pharma that they beat us, what can I say,” Dr. Diamond said.

After successful phase I and II trials, Dr. Diamond is excited to begin inoculating volunteers like Duarte, who said her hopes for the vaccine’s success far outweigh any nerves or concerns about the risks of an experimental injection.

She is optimistic an end to the pandemic is finally in sight so long as more people are willing to roll up their sleeves to be vaccinated.

“I come from a large family so they’re all rooting for me. ‘You’re pioneering the way for all of us,’ is what they said. If I can share my story and get others to feel comfortable and participate through the clinical trial process then my purpose has been filled,” Duarte said.

People interested in finding out more about the trial can email CovidVaccine@coh.org or read more information here.