TAMPA, Fla. — The search for a vaccine against the coronavirus will involve health care workers in Tampa Bay. 

Tampa General Hospital is one of 16 sites across the country taking part in an important study that could determine whether the drug hydroxychloroquine can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“If we can answer the questions 'if hydroxychloroquine can prevent you from getting COVID-19' this will be an added ammunition in their fight against COVID-19,” said Tampa General Associate Epidemiologist Dr. Seetha Lakshmi. 

The study will be conducted through a health care worker registry, where researchers hope to 15,000 health care workers. The study itself has a very apt title: Health Care Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes, or "HERO."

"To be honest with you, I don’t think in the history of naming studies we have named a study so perfectly," Lakshmi said, who is also an assistant professor of infectious diseases at USF. 

Until now, most of the testing looked at hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, leaving a lot of unanswered questions.

It's hoped that this new trial, looking at it as a preventative, will answer some of them.

“It’s a very ambitious study,” said Lakshmi, “We’re trying to keep pace with the virus, so we have to be fast. The hope is to complete the study in 8 weeks.”

The trial study is expected to begin next week. Results could be available sometime in July.

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