An Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Is Already Being Tested on People
But it still won’t be widely available for at least a year
Scientists 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 widely available. While that seems like a long time, it’s actually extremely fast for vaccine development.
Just weeks after China shared the genetic sequence of the coronavirus in January, Moderna announced that it would ship its experimental vaccine to the U.S. government for testing. Last week, a handful of volunteers in Seattle became the first to receive that vaccine. The Seattle suburbs have been among the hardest hit areas in the country after the state of Washington confirmed the first U.S. case of coronavirus on January 21.
A total of 45 healthy adults ages 18 to 55 years are expected to receive the investigational vaccine over the next six weeks. Known as a Phase I trial, this initial human study will test the safety of the vaccine as well as its ability to produce an immune response at three different doses. An effective vaccine must be able to create an immune response in the body that imitates an infection but doesn’t make a…