Understanding COVID-19 Clinical Trials

What is a clinical trial?
Researcher with testing materials

Clinical trials are medical research studies with volunteers. The purpose of the studies is to determine whether a new treatment or vaccine works and is safe for people to use. After researchers thoroughly test new treatments or vaccines in the lab to make sure they may benefit people, the most promising treatments move into clinical trials.

How clinical trials work and what happens in each phase

Why should I participate in a clinical trial?
Person signing up for treatment

People participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. Consider joining a COVID-19 clinical trial if you want to:

  • Make a difference and help end the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Make sure COVID-19 vaccines and treatments will work for as many people as possible
  • Help us return to work, school, and normal life
Are clinical trials safe?
Vaccine being administered to individual

If you take part in a clinical trial, your safety will be protected. Every clinical researcher is required to monitor participants to make sure they’re safe. These safeguards are an essential part of the research.

  • Before they begin, clinical trials must be approved by an institutional review board (IRB). An IRB is made up of doctors, scientists, and people like you and is dedicated to making sure that study participants are not exposed to unnecessary risks.
  • Many clinical trials are also closely supervised by a data and safety monitoring board (DSMB). The DSMB is made up of experts on the trial’s targeted condition who periodically look at the results of the study as it is in progress. If the DSMB finds that the experimental treatment is not working or is harming participants, the board will recommend that the trial be stopped right away.
  • People who join clinical trials must give informed consent. This means that they are told exactly what is going to happen, what the risks are, and what their rights are.
How do I know whether a clinical trial is real?
Two doctors swabbing man

Clinical trials are very important, but not all of them are legitimate. If you’re interested in participating in a COVID-19 research study, the Federal Trade Commission has guidance to help you determine whether a clinical trial is real or fake.

Find a COVID-19 Clinical Trial

COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN)

CoVPN is conducting Phase 3 clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.


This website provides more information about current COVID-19 clinical trials.


This searchable database shows federally and privately supported clinical trials studying COVID-19 in the United States and around the world.

Clinical Trial Resources

The importance of participating in the CoVPN clinical trials.

Including people from every community is important in clinical research.

Learn about the importance of including communities of color in clinical trials.

Vaccines are tested through the different phases of clinical trials.

Participants and researchers share what taking part in a clinical trial is like.

Page last updated: September 22, 2021