An Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Is Already Being Tested on People

But it still won’t be widely available for at least a year

Emily Mullin
OneZero
Published in
7 min readMar 24, 2020

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A photo of Xinhua Yan working at a lab in Cambridge. She is wearing purple gloves and pipetting.
Scientist Xinhua Yan works in the lab at Moderna in Cambridge, MA on Feb. 28, 2020. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)

SScientists are urgently pursuing vaccines that could protect large numbers of people against the deadly coronavirus. To do this as quickly as possible, one company is skipping early testing steps and fast-tracking a type of vaccine technology that isn’t yet proven effective in people.

While several companies and academic groups are just beginning to develop their vaccines, Moderna, a biotech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is already injecting healthy participants with an experimental vaccine.

“In trying times, we sometimes do things that perhaps we wouldn’t do if we had an unlimited amount of time,” Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, tells OneZero. “Desperate times warrant desperate measures.” And as infections and deaths from the virus surge around the world, the situation is becoming increasingly dire.

A vaccine represents the best long-term defense against the virus, known as SARS-Cov-2, and could help thwart future outbreaks. But even if one is found to be safe and successful at preventing infection, public health experts say it will take at least a year to become…

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Emily Mullin
OneZero

Former staff writer at Medium, where I covered biotech, genetics, and Covid-19 for OneZero, Future Human, Elemental, and the Coronavirus Blog.