The first participant in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive the experimental vaccine on Monday (16 March), a United States (US) government official said.
The official also spoke on the condition of anonymity as the trial has not been publicly announced yet, according to an AP report earlier today. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding the trial which will take place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
The trial is aimed to test whether the vaccine will show any potential side effects and to set the stage for a larger test. It will start with 45 young and healthy volunteers, in which they will be given different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc.
AP highlighted in its report that participants will not get infected from the shots as they do not contain the virus itself.
However, public health officials said that it could take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine.
Meanwhile, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus that has infected more than 160,000 people and killed about 6,516 people globally.
On 7 March, China said its first vaccines could be ready for ‘emergency use’ in April, VOA News reported. Director of the National Health Commission’s Science and Technology Development Center Zheng Zhongwei said dozens of China’s vaccine research institutions were involved in the vaccine development.
“According to our estimates, we are hopeful that in April some of the vaccines will enter clinical research or be of use in emergency situations,” said Mr Zheng.
Meanwhile, scientists in Israel are weeks away from developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, The Jerusalem Post reported on 15 March. MIGAL research institute’s biotechnology group leader Dr Chen Katz said the new vaccine will go through a regulatory process including clinical trials and large-scale production.
“All we need to do is adjust the system to the new sequence,” he noted. “We are in the middle of this process, and hopefully in a few weeks we will have the vaccine in our hands. Yes, in a few weeks, if it all works, we would have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus.”
MIGAL CEO David Zigdon hinted that the vaccine can be made accessible to the general public as it is an oral vaccine, adding that it could achieve safety approval in 90 days.
A Canadian company Quebec City-based Medicago announced that it has produced a “vaccine candidate” to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. Medicago said it could begin human trials as early as July after gaining approval by Health Canada and other agencies, CBC reported on 13 March.
Medicago uses “virus-like particles” — molecules that mimic the form of a virus, but without the infectious properties — that can trigger a human’s immune system to create antibodies that can fight the actual virus.
“We can produce a vaccine candidate very quickly once a pandemic is declared,” said Nathalie Landry, Medicago’s executive vice-president of scientific and medical affairs. “We can scale up very quickly and produce a large number of doses. If you think of influenza, for example, it takes anything from four to six months before vaccine doses are produced.”