Photos: Volunteers in Seattle get first doses of trial vaccine for COVID-19
The first shots in the first vaccine trial for the new coronavirus were administered Monday as a small group of volunteers in Seattle will receive varying doses over the next several weeks to test the safety of the experimental vaccine.
Doctors at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle gave the first shots in the trial aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.
"Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said in a statement. "This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal."
SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes COVID-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic last week. More than 183,400 cases globally have been reported, with more than 7,100 confirmed deaths, since the virus was first detected in late 2019 in China.
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The trial is to include 45 healthy adults ages 18-55 and last for approximately 6 weeks as volunteers will receive two shots about a month apart.
Developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., the experimental vaccine uses messenger RNA and "directs the body’s cells to express a virus protein that it is hoped will elicit a robust immune response," the institute said in a news release.
Scientists working on a vaccine for Middle East respiratory syndrome, caused by another coronavirus, were able to develop the COVID-19 experimental vaccine quickly once the genetic information for the new coronavirus became available.
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Coronaviruses are named for crown-like spikes on their surfaces, and the potential COVID-19 vaccine targets the spike, which allow the viruses to attack the human body.
Dr. Lisa Jackson, who is leading the study with Kaiser Permanente, told the Associated Press that her team is "subdued" as the trial gets underway. The potential vaccine is one of many being developed around the globe, and it could still take more than a year for it to be widely available if it is proven safe.
“We don’t know whether this vaccine will induce an immune response or whether it will be safe. That’s why we’re doing a trial,” Jackson told the Associated Press.
But, "going from not even knowing that this virus was out there … to have any vaccine" in testing in about two months is unprecedented, she added.
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"We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something," Jennifer Haller, 43, of Seattle told the AP. She's one of the first people who will take part in the trial.
"I'm feeling great," she added after getting the shot.
Other recipients of the first round of the vaccine were Neal Browning, 46, of Bothell, Washington. He told the AP his daughters were proud of him for being part of the trial.
"Every parent wants their children to look up to them," he said. But he said he told them not to brag to friends. "It's other people, too. It's not just Dad out there."
Rebecca Sirull, 25, said she joined the trial as "a way to contribute to the situation in a positive way."
"The main guidelines that we all have right now are to stay home and do nothing, which is sort of a hard message to hear when you want to help out," she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press