Last week, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave. in Austin, will be among the sites that will test individuals taking the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines.  

According to the Crain’s report, a Loretto representative said the hospital expects to start testing “”three potential COVID-19 vaccines as early as February,” but declined to identify the drugmakers.”  

Crain’s reported that “a source familiar with the impending trial said at least one is manufactured by Merck.”   

In a joint statement released Dec. 7, Loretto Hospital and Affinity Health — an Oak Brook-based healthcare provider that helps facilitate clinical trials — announced that people can now start registering for the vaccine trials.  

Qualified participants must be at least 18 years old and in relatively good health. Individuals who are interested in registering can visit

“Selected participants will receive free healthcare for up to two years, regardless of insurance status, including medical examinations by Board certified physicians and bloodwork, and are free to opt out of the study at any point,” according to the statement. 

Dr. Lois Clarke, Loretto’s director of clinical research, said that Blacks and Hispanics account for half of the country’s COVID-19 cases, but only 15 percent of participants in early vaccine trials were non-white.  

“Even if everyone’s immune system reacts the same way to the virus, we know that people of

color may respond differently to the infection and vaccine based on differences in overall

health and underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or emphysema,” she said. “By including minority representation in the trials there will be a way of ensuring the vaccine is equally safe and effective for all populations.” 

George Miller, Loretto’s president and CEO, said the trials represent an “opportunity to make sure our voices are heard and our lives considered as we join in the fight to end the worst pandemic our world has seen in the past century.”

According to Loretto officials, the hospital has provided more than 18,000 COVID019 tests to community members “at no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of insurance status, symptoms, exposure, or medical history. 

“The hospital offers walk-up testing, 9 a.m. to Noon, Monday through Friday, with no physician referral or appointment needed,” according to the joint statement.  

For more info on the free COVID-19 tests at Loretto, visit