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First COVID-19 Vaccine Most to Final Stage of Testing

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First COVID-19 Vaccine Most to Final Stage of Testing

2020-07-14 21:19:58

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Vaccine being administered (Image source: Public domain)

It continues to be good news with the coronavirus vaccine that is the furthest along in its development. It has made it to the final stage of testing. Not that it will be released any sooner than the suggested end of 2020/beginning of 2021, but just the knowledge that it's doing as well as it is, is welcome news with the virus surging in the southern and southwestern states.

"No matter how you slice this, this is good news," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert and member of the United States Coronavirus Task Force. He may be on the outs with Donald Trump, but delivering news like this will keep him in many people's favor.

This vaccine is being developed at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. and will start the final step around July 27. Thirty thousand people will be included in the study to show whether the vaccine is strong enough to protect them from COVID-19.

Researchers waited to hear from the first 45 volunteers who started with the vaccine in March. It went on to help boost their immunity as desired. The volunteers developed neutralizing antibodies in their blood. These are molecules that are key to blocking an infection. It's comparable to the immunity that COVID-19 survivors experience, reported the research team to the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection," said Dr. Lisa Jackson, with Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.

There is no guarantee for the timing of the release of the Moderna vaccine, but there are hopes for it to be released by the end of this year, and if not, early next year. Fauci had previously said that they are already manufacturing doses of the vaccine so that when it's declared ready for the public, there will already be a couple hundred million doses ready to go.

The vaccine will require two doses one month apart. So far there have been no serious side effects noted, thought more than half of the volunteers reported flu-like reactions, which are typical of some other vaccines as well. Fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and pain at the injection site have been experienced. They are also common to COVID-19, but they only last about a day after being inoculation.

"Small price to pay for protection against COVID," said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Though he is a vaccine expert, he was not involved with the study.

Three participants given the highest dose experienced more severe levels of those symptoms, leading to that dosage not being pursued.

Schaffner referred to the early results of the vaccine as "a good first step." He's optimistic that final testing could bring answers to whether it's safe or not by the beginning of 2021. "It would be wonderful. But that assumes everything's working right on schedule," he cautioned.

It's also noteworthy that these results were only for younger adult volunteers. Dozens of older adults joined the testing later. Regulators are evaluating those results, with Fauci noting the final testing will include older adults, as well as people with underlying health conditions and people belonging to the Black and Latino populations.

Nearly two dozen other vaccines are in development as well but aren't quite at the final testing stage just yet. Along with the 30,000-person study, the government also plans similar studies with the Oxford vaccine candidate and another by Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer Inc. is conducting its own study. 

People think "this is a race for one winner. Me, I'm cheering everyone one of them on," said Fauci. "We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country."

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