UConn on aging studies and COVID-19

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The University of Connecticut Center of Aging website. The University of Connecticut’s Center on Aging is studying how the COVID-19 vaccine impacts older adults. Photo courtesy of UConn Center of Aging Website

The University of Connecticut’s Center on Aging is currently conducting studies on individuals receiving the COVID-19 vaccine to investigate how the virus affects older adults. 

The study is led by Dr. George Kuchel, director for the Center on Aging, in collaboration with the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. The study aims to acquire a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

“The idea of the study is to get a deeper insight into people who do well against the virus,” Dr. Kuchel said. “What is it about some individuals that make them so susceptible to SARS-CoV-2?” 

Dr. Kuchel has conducted years’ worth of research studying influenza and pneumonia vaccines and how they affect older people. He said this study is a mesh of the geriatric care and immunology fields. 

For this particular project, the researchers are focused on looking at people 65 years of age and older as this demographic reacts strongly to the debilitating effects of COVID-19. Those who are in the older demographic are 400 times more likely to die from a COVID-19 infection. 

“It turns out being older and also having multiple chronic diseases puts you at a severe risk,” Dr. Kuchel said. 

He said the study involves using sophisticated tools for clinical assessments, such as immune profiling. This occurs before and after receiving a vaccine for COVID-19 to see how the patient’s immune system responds to infection. 

The researchers are looking for participants 20 years of age and older who have recently scheduled an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The study looks at three distinct age ranges: 20-49, 50-64 and 65+.  

“This is something we are very passionate about,” Dr. Kuchel said. “We’re just trying to do our part.” 

The study did not come without its share of hiccups. Dr. Kuchel said the researchers have to wrap up very quickly, due to quarantine restrictions and the limited availability of vaccines. 

“When this all began, people assumed the main battleground would be in hospitals. But senior centers and retirement communities have also been affected,” Dr. Kuchel said. “Above all, we want to make sure patients and staff are safe.” 

Those interested in participating in the study can contact the Center on Aging at (860) 679-3043, or by emailing Megan Wing at wing@uchc.edu. Interested participants can also call JAX study coordinators at (860) 837-2404. 

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