US begins first clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine

On Monday, the United States launched the first-ever clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine with volunteers in Seattle.

Even if all goes well, a vaccine will not be available for widespread use for another 12 to 18 months
Even if all goes well, a vaccine will not be available for widespread use for another 12 to 18 months. Photo courtesy: CDC

"A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is funding the trial," an NIH statement announced. 

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said NIAID Director Anthony S Fauci, MD. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

Even if all goes well, a vaccine will not be available for widespread use for another 12 to 18 months, Fauci added.

The investigational vaccine, made by biotech company Moderna, does not contain any part of the actual coronavirus and cannot cause infection. It instead includes a short segment of lab-grown messenger RNA. Researchers are currently testing the safety of various doses to learn whether they produce an immune response.

The Phase 1 trial is led by Lisa A. Jackson, M.D., senior investigator at KPWHRI. Study participants will receive two doses of the vaccine via intramuscular injection in the upper arm approximately 28 days apart.

“This work is critical to national efforts to respond to the threat of this emerging virus,” Dr. Jackson said.

Clinical trials usually have three phases. The first, involving a few dozen healthy volunteers, tests the vaccine for safety, monitoring for adverse effects. The second, involving several hundred people, usually in a part of the world affected by the disease, looks at how effective the vaccine is, and the third does the same in several thousand people. 

Author
Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation. 

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