Taking on COVID-19 at Meharry Medical College

Why are vaccine trials still important even though some vaccines are already available? CLICK HERE to learn why.

Working together toward a safe and healthy future

At Meharry Medical College, health and well-being for underserved communities is at the forefront of what we do. This is why we have advocated for quality health care for African-American and LatinX people over the last 144 years—to ensure our communities are properly cared for.

We are at war with a virus that is killing people within our communities at a terrifying rate. We are actively working to tackle COVID-19 to help save the lives of our loved ones through a variety of initiatives—including COVID-19 testing, treatment and, now, vaccine development—to ensure African-American and LatinX communities are well represented. We are conducting a COVID-19 Vaccine Trial to ensure the vaccine works for all people—including those who look like us and have historically been forgotten and mistreated.

Our COVID-19 programs and activities are designed to be a catalyst to help keep community members safe and healthy. Join us in bringing about positive change and reducing the impact of COVID-19 in our communities.

Your participation in the COVID-19 vaccine trials is important.

If you’re interested in being a part of the trials, fill out the brief form below and we’ll get back to you, or contact Dr. Rajbir Singh at rsingh@mmc.edu or (615) 327-6820. This number is for VACCINE TRIALS ONLY. For questions about Meharry’s vaccination clinic, call 615.327.6348 or CLICK HERE for the waitlist and sign up for only ONE slot.

Preference for the vaccine trials is given to people in minority populations and those at high risk.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

  • Please provide your name and the best way to contact you.

COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A: 10 Things to Know About the Coronavirus Vaccine

As COVID-19 vaccinations are rolled out across the country, there are countless questions being asked about their safety and efficacy: Why are there so many vaccines being developed? Is there benefit to one over the other? During this time, it is normal to feel anxiety about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially as misinformation continues to circulate. Therefore, it is critical that you have access to the information you need to better protect you and your loved ones.

Here are some common questions (and answers) you may be hearing:

1. Why are there so many vaccines being developed?

The best solution to deal with the shortage of vaccines is to develop more vaccines. There are many COVID-19 vaccines in development around the world to help increase our chances of ending the pandemic. We need vaccines that can work for a variety of people. There are several approaches to preventing the virus, and different approaches may have different strengths and weaknesses. This will make vaccine available for everyone.

2. What COVID-19 vaccines are authorized and recommended for use?

Currently, two vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are authorized and recommended by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent COVID-19 in America under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.

As of Dec. 28, 2020, there are three Phase 3 clinical trials in progress or being planned in the United States including vaccine candidates sponsored by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Janssen. Many other vaccines are being developed and tested elsewhere in the world.

3. What are the different types of vaccines and how do they work?

All COVID-19 vaccines help your body build immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. There are currently three types of COVID-19 vaccines that offer similar protection against the virus, including mRNA vaccines, protein subunit vaccines and vector vaccines.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines which prompt our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus. None of these vaccines include the live virus — you will not be injected with coronavirus when you receive a vaccine which means that you cannot get COVID-19 from a vaccine. To learn more about the differences between the types of vaccines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/need-to-know.html.

4. Is one vaccine expected to be more effective than the other?

Currently approved vaccines are similar in safety and efficacy and work in a variety of population groups. Each vaccine has been tested in various age groups, races, ethnicities, etc. to ensure efficacy.

5. How many doses are necessary to protect from COVID-19?

Most COVID-19 vaccines in the United States require two doses. The second injection will be given at least 21 days after the first, though the specific time frame may differ based on the vaccine you are receiving.

One vaccine currently in the Phase 3 clinical trials only requires one dose.

6. When will the vaccine be available to the community?

There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. However, the goal is for everyone to be able to easily get the vaccine once supply increases within the weeks and months to come. As of now, vaccinations are being rolled out in groups: Phase 1b and Phase 1c. On Dec. 22, the CDC recommended vaccinations be given to Phase 1b first including essential workers and people aged 75 years and older. The next recommended group to get the vaccine is Phase 1c which includes people aged 65-74, people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions and other essential workers.

7. Is the COVID-19 vaccine free?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the U.S. at no cost.

8. Where can I get the vaccine?

The goal is to have thousands of providers offering the COVID-19 vaccine around the country. Ultimately, the plan is to have the vaccine readily available at retail pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and federally qualified health centers once the supply is available.

9. Are there any possible side effects?

Sometimes, it is possible to feel mild flu-like symptoms like chills, tiredness and headache after getting the vaccine. This is normal and is a sign that the body is developing immunity. However, these symptoms are not correlated to COVID-19. It is important to remember that none of these vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, meaning a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you sick from the disease and will not cause you to test positive.

10. Am I exempt from lockdown restrictions once I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

Though you are protected from getting sick with COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, you will not be exempt from lockdown restrictions.

We recognize that staying healthy is more than simply receiving medical care. That’s why at Meharry, we:

COVID testing• Work with Metro Nashville government to manage the city’s free COVID-19 drive-through testing sites.

• Work with community partners to provide weekend COVID-19 testing at area churches and other locations.

• Distribute accurate health information about how to protect yourself, your loved ones, friends and neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic

• Assist interested persons to enroll in research, including COVID-19 vaccine trials.

• Work collaboratively with our community partners to better understand the most effective strategies for preventing and treating COVID-19 among African Americans, Latinx and other vulnerable populations.

In response to COVID-19, Meharry seeks to:

• Increase access to culturally sensitive health care.

• Provide accurate prevention and treatment information to African American, Latinx and other vulnerable populations.

• Ensure that high-quality resources are available, especially to the communities we serve.

• Provide access to accurate and culturally sensitive health promotion information.

• Work with Metro Nashville to provide free COVID-19 testing at one of the three Meharry-run assessment sites or through our mobile clinic.

• Provide culturally and linguistically appropriate primary care and inpatient services for patients who need it.

• Link patients to community resources to help them and their families address both personal challenges as well as social inequities they may be experiencing.

• Provide opportunities for community partners to engage in research studies that will help us learn how to best address COVID-19.

Mobile ClinicWith Metro Nashville, Meharry currently operates three, drive through COVID-19 testing sites across the county.

We also work with community partners to host COVID-19 testing at their locations on Saturdays through our mobile clinic.

Contact us to learn more about our commitment to this cause.

Doctor giving vaccineAt Meharry Medical College, we are dedicated to stepping up our efforts to address the pandemic, and through cooperation and community empowerment we can rise to the challenge.


We anticipate that multiple COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available by the middle of 2021, but even after a vaccine becomes available, we must not let down our guard. We must continue to wear masks, wash hands and social distance until the scientists and health professionals tell us different.


To prepare for a vaccine, we must become more knowledgeable about the differences in vaccine candidates, how to determine which one may be best for each of us, and where and how to get them.


In addition, some may wish to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials to help us better understand barriers to following CDC guidelines, treatment, and vaccine access, and reduce the burden the virus is having, especially among black, brown and other vulnerable persons.


We are always striving to make a difference, and invite you to learn more and lend your support.

Primary Care Services: Compassionate health providers

Checking blood pressureIt will take a comprehensive and coordinated effort to overcome COVID-19.


We believe we can overcome historical disparities in health care access and outcomes through community cooperation and empowerment.


Meharry provides compassionate health care through Meharry Medical Group and its primary care clinics and through Nashville General Hospital for those who need to be hospitalized.


Meharry is always working to make a difference.


Food Insecurity: Helping The Community

Through Meharry’s COVID-19 initiative, our goal is to promote the care of the vulnerable and their loved ones and friends in need.


Meharrians are working every day to help those who are struggling with social inequities, such as food insecurity.


With access to the right resources, everyone can become empowered by strengthening their own abilities and gaining the confidence to fulfill their potential.


Learn more about our work by getting in touch with our team today.


The TN CEAL program seeks to increase knowledge and awareness about COVID-19, COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19 vaccine readiness.


It also seeks to assist persons who are interested in participating in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.


With this statewide initiative, our goal is to promote community awareness about all things COVID


With academic-community partnerships in West, Central and East Tennessee, we seek to enroll persons in a research project that tests the best ways to promote COVID-19 messaging to vulnerable populations.


To learn more about our work by getting in touch with our team today.

Find out more by contacting us.



Meharry President James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D. on the pandemic

Handwashing & T-zones

Transmission & masks

The importance of testing


Vaccine risks
& trials

Race, COVID-19 & vaccines


Lingering effects of the disease

Flu season & COVID-19

Immunity after recovery?

Blood types & COVID-19

Mixed messages in the news

Advice for spiritual leaders


Dr. James E.K. Hildreth

James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D.

President and CEO, Meharry Medical College


As President and CEO of Meharry Medical College, James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., leads the technological, academic and clinical transformation of the nation’s largest, private, historically Black academic health sciences center. He has positioned the organization for success through innovative programs, strategic partnerships and creation of an entrepreneurial culture.


Because of his standing as a world-class infectious disease expert and excellent ability to explain complex science to laypersons, Dr. Hildreth has emerged as a respected national figure in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


In September 2020, he was appointed to the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that will review COVID-19 vaccine candidates for approval.


He received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Ph.D. from Oxford University and bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and was also selected as a Rhodes scholar. He has received numerous honors and served on many national scientific councils including current membership on the Advisory Council to the NIH director.

Dr. Cherae Farmer-Dixon

Cherae M. Farmer-Dixon, D.D.S., MSPH

Dean, Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry


Named dean of the School of Dentistry in July 2013, Cherae Farmer-Dixon, D.D.S., has been on faculty at Meharry Medical College since her graduation from Meharry in 1990. As dean, she has forwarded the mission of oral health care through the many graduates of the College’s dental education program.


Also holding a Master of Science in Public Health from Meharry, she has championed Meharry’s mission to take the oral health message into the community, overseeing outreach programs such as the College’s Oral Health Day providing free dental care to hundreds on one Saturday in the spring, and the fielding of the College’s Mobile Dental Unit into underserved areas across Tennessee and providing dental care to countless numbers who have no access to oral health services.


During the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Farmer-Dixon was given oversight of Meharry’s role in Metro-Nashville’s Community Assessment Centers for COVID-19 testing, managing three testing sites across the city, affecting the health of thousands in Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Paul Juarez

Paul D. Juarez, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator


Dr. Juarez is PI of the Tennessee Community-Engaged Alliance against COVID-19 (TN CEAL) grant. The TN CEAL team includes academic/community partnerships in West, Central and East Tennessee. Its aims are to conduct research that promotes the health of vulnerable populations in response to COVID-19, increase community preparedness for a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and to increase awareness and promote participation of vulnerable populations in COVID-19 clinical trials.

Dr. Rajbir Singh

Rajbir Singh, M.D.

Director of Clinical and Translational Research


Dr. Rajbir Singh, Director of the college’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, said Meharry’s primary mission — education — includes Operation Warp Speed to provide Americans with a safe and effective vaccine to protect them against COVID-19.


Dr. Singh is co-investigator with Dr. Berthaud and serves as Meharry’s contact person for volunteers.


Meharry seeks to enroll approximately 300 people willing to help test the medicine. Enrollment is October-February.


“Our target is to enroll at least 25 per week,” Singh said. Many have expressed interest in receiving an injection of one of those vaccines during Meharry’s clinical trials.

Volunteers may contact Singh at (615) 327-6820 or rsingh@mmc.edu.

Dr. Vladimir Berthaud

Vladimir Berthaud, M.D.

Infectious Disease


Dr. Berthaud is recruiting patients for a clinical trial site he oversees in Nashville. His goal is to enroll more than 300 people of color. Berthaud, who is Black and from Haiti, appeals to his patients’ sense of duty.


“If you don’t have enough people like you in those vaccine trials, you will not know if it works for you,” he told them. “You will not know.”


For most of the current coronavirus vaccine trials, recruitment mainly takes place online — which often results in mostly white people enrolling.


That’s why Meharry researchers are wooing Black patients with a personal invitation. They’re now recruiting for the phase 3 trials underway now. Meharry’s first trial, for a vaccine candidate by Novavax, launched in October 2020.


Stephanie Miller Hughes

Stephania Miller-Hughes, Ph.D.

Director, RCMI Community Engagement Core


Dr. Miller-Hughes works to engage community partners in our research. Using a community-based participatory research process, Dr. Miller-Hughes invites community partners to participate in all stages of research, to ensure the research reflects community norms and addresses any issues that may arise.


Neelie Williams, Ed.D.

Director, Community Partners


Dr. Williams has an extensive history of working with both research teams and community organizations to ensure the voices of underrepresented partners are understood.