Coronavirus vaccine enters final test on 30,000 human volunteers

Andrew Trunsky, DCNF

The world’s largest coronavirus vaccine trial began Monday with the first of 30,000 American volunteers receiving shots developed by the U.S. government and a private drug company to boost auto-immune responses to COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.

The goal of trial, administered by the National Institutes of Health, is to determine how effective pharmaceutical company Moderna‘s experimental vaccine is at producing an immune response to the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

While some volunteers are receiving the vaccine, some will receive an innate dosage as a placebo in order to pinpoint just how effective the vaccine is, according to the AP After two doses, researchers will track each group’s exposure and infection rate in order to draw a more accurate conclusion of how effective the vaccine is, AP reported.

The vaccines will administered at over 80 locations across the United States, Moderna said, but the trials Monday were given in Savannah, Georgia, the AP reported.

“These trials need to be multigenerational, they need to be multiethnic, they need to reflect the diversity of the United States population,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle who is involved with the NIH’s study.

Over 150,000 Americans initially applied to volunteer, Corey said.

Though the trial is the world’s largest to date, it is far from the only one being tested in the global race to create an effective, safe vaccine against the coronavirus. Studies in China, Brazil and the United Kingdom have been ongoing, with one UK study producing encouraging results, according to Oxford University, which has administered the trials.

The Moderna trial marks the latest milestone in what has been a global marathon to develop an effective vaccine. The virus was first reported in December 2019, and its genetic sequence was first shared with scientists on Jan. 10. In March, the NIH administered its first human test, according to AP.

“We’re optimistic, cautiously optimistic,” Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, told House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Tuesday, expressing hope that conclusive data would allow the vaccine to be distributed “toward the end of the year.”

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